Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XII, Number 8
14 Kislev 5758
December 13, 1997
As this parashah opens, Yaakov sends messengers to his brother
Esav to prepare Esav for their reunion. Yaakov's message is (32:5-
6), "I sojourned with Lavan and lingered until now. I have
acquired an ox and a donkey . . ." Chazal say that the ox is a
reference to Yosef, as it is written (Devarim 33:17), "Sovereignty
is his, ox-like one," while the donkey is a reference to
Yissachar, as it is written (Bereishit 49:14), "Yissachar is a
strong-boned donkey." What was Yaakov's message to Esav?
R' Gedaliah Anemer shlita (Rosh Hayeshiva of the Yeshiva of
Greater Washington) explained as follows: When Yaakov fled from
Esav, but before he set out for Lavan's house, he prepared himself
in two ways. First, Chazal tell us that Yaakov spent 14 years
studying Torah in the house of Shem and Ever. Second, we read at
the beginning of last week's parashah of the dream that Yaakov
dreamt before reaching Lavan's home. (In contrast, we do not find
in the Torah even one instance where either Avraham or Yitzchak
Yaakov's son Yosef most exemplified Yaakov's nature as a
dreamer, as we will read in next week's parashah. As for Torah
scholarship, this is the trait most associated with Yaakov's son
Yissachar. [Throughout the generations, Chazal tell us, the
distinguished members of the Sanhedrin came from Yissachar.] This,
then, is the message that Yaakov sent Esav: "I can face any
challenge that I may encounter because of the two weapons that I
have. I have the donkey, i.e., Yissachar the power of Torah
and I have the ox, i.e., Yosef the ability to dream of great
things ahead." With such weapons, any dark force, even that of
Esav, can be defeated. (Heard from R' Anemer, 9 Kislev 5758)
An Astonishing Midrash
"Therefore Bnei Yisrael will not eat 'et gid hanasheh'/the
displaced sinew on the hip socket to this day." (32:33) this
includes Tisha B'Av.
G-d had contemplated that there would be 13 tribes, not 12 [see
Bava Batra 122a], but the angel made this impossible when he
injured Yaakov. Thirteen is the gematria of the word "echad/one,"
signifying the unity that would have existed among the tribes had
there been 13 of them.
Because Yaakov could not father the 13th tribe, Yosef had to be
divided into two tribes. So, too, there has always been division
among the Jews, and such a division caused the destruction of the
Temple. Thus, the quoted verse alludes to the four fast days that
commemorate the destruction of the Temple, as follows:
The "gimmel" of "gid" alludes to Tzom Gedaliah. ("Gimmel,"
the third letter of the Aleph-Bet, stands for the third day
The "yud" of "gid" alludes to Asarah B'Tevet. ("Yud," the
tenth letter, stands for the tenth day of Tevet.)
The gematria of "gid" is 17, representing the Fast of the
17th of Tamuz.
Where is Tisha B'Av alluded to? Chazal teach that wherever the
article "et" appears in the Torah, it comes to include something
that is not obvious from the verse itself. In this case, the word
"et" alludes to Tisha B'Av. Indeed, the word itself is the
acronym of the words "Av-Tisha."
"Why do you ask my name?" (32:30)
R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik z"l observed that Yaakov faces two
confrontations in this parashah, one with Esav and one with an
anonymous "man." These two confrontations were qualitatively
When Yaakov faced Esav, he knew that Esav hated him and he knew
exactly why (i.e., because Yaakov took the birthright and the
blessings). However, when Yaakov fought with the unnamed man, he
did not know who his enemy was, let alone why the enemy attacked
Such is the nature of our experience in exile. More often than
not, we do not know who our enemies are. At the beginning of this
century, for example, many Jews believed the socialists who
claimed that capitalism caused anti-semitism. Yet, when the
socialists (i.e., communists) gained control in Russia, anti-
semitism actually became more intense.
(Divrei Hashkafah p.23)
"Yaakov arrived whole at the city of Shechem . . . and he
camped before the city." (33:18)
The Hebrew words which mean "he camped before the city" also
mean "he beautified the face of the city." The gemara (Shabbat
33a) offers three interpretations of how Yaakov beautified the
city: (1) he introduced coinage; (2) he built bathhouses; or (3)
he established public squares.
R' Yeshayah Horowitz z"l (the "Shelah Hakadosh"; 17th century)
explains this as follows: On the statement in the above verse that
"Yaakov arrived whole," Rashi comments, "Whole in body, whole
financially, and whole in his Torah learning." Yaakov shared this
"wholeness" with the people of Shechem he was whole financially,
so he introduced coinage to improve their financial dealings; he
was whole in body, so he built bathhouses to improve their health;
and he was whole in Torah, so he built public squares as places to
spread the word
(Shnei Luchot Haberit; quoted in Mussarei Ha'Shelah)
"Discard the alien gods that are in your midst . . ." (35:2)
Rashi writes that this refers to the spoils from the city of
Shechem. Did Yaakov's sons actually have idols from Shechem in
their possession? Surely not, said R' Dovid Soloveitchik shlita.
However, whenever one meets evil, even if he meets it in battle
and destroys it (as Yaakov's sons did to Shechem), he is tainted
by it. Thus Yaakov said, "Discard the taint of the evil of
Shechem which is in your midst."
(Quoted in Shai Latorah)
"And Yitzchak expired and died . . ." (35:29)
In the case of Avraham it says, "And die did Avraham" (i.e., the
name Avraham is mentioned after the word "die"). R' Moshe
Feinstein z"l explained that even after Avraham died, he was alive
for his descendants, even for Yishmael, who had repented. Not so
when Yitzchak died; in Esav's mind, he, and all he epresented, was
R' Shlomo ibn Gabirol z"l
born 1021 - died 1058
R' Shlomo ben Yehuda ibn Gabirol was born in Malaga and died in
Valencia (both in Spain). He was a paytan/liturgist and
philosopher of whom it was said, "By subduing his natural
instincts and inclinations in order to purify his body and soul,
he achieved sublime holiness and ascended to heights unparalleled
by his contemporaries." R' Avraham ibn Ezra wrote of him that "he
possessed great wisdom regarding the secret of the soul."
Many of R' Shlomo's poems have been incorporated into our
liturgy (although not all hymns signed "Shlomo ben Yehuda" are
his), and, in some cases, later halachic authorities derived
halachic principles from these poems. Several later sages also
wrote commentaries on R' Shlomo's poems.
R' Shlomo also wrote a major philosophical treatise, Mekor
Chaim. This work was written in Arabic, and in the 12th century
was translated into Spanish and Latin. Thereafter, the original
work was lost and its Jewish origins forgotten. In time, Mekor
Chaim known by the Latin name, Fons Vitae became popular among
Catholic intellectuals, while Jews shunned it. Only in 1846 were
the work's origins discovered, and only in this century was it
published in Hebrew for the first time.
R' Shlomo also wrote Tikkun Middot Hanefesh, in which he
arranges virtues and vices in relation to the five senses, with
every sense becoming the instrument of two virtues and two
corresponding vices. (Sources: The Artscroll Rishonim p.61-62;
Ibn Ezra, Bereishit 3:21; She'eilot U'teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer,
Chelek Ramat Rachel)
Copyright © 1997 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
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