As Yaakov returns to Eretz Yisrael from his sojourn with Lavan,
he says to his family (35:3): "Then come, let us go up to Bet El;
there I will make an altar to the 'Kel'/G-d Who answered me in my
time of distress and was with me on the road that I traveled."
R' Elie Munk z"l (see box on page 3) observes:
Of the various attributes of the Supreme Being, the Divine name
"Kel" is the one which Yaakov invokes most frequently. It recurs
several times in this chapter and figures both in the name Yaakov
gave to the place where Hashem appeared to him ("Bet El") and in
the new name given to Yaakov himself ("Yisrael"). The midrash
teaches that this name denotes the middah/attribute of
rachamim/mercy; indeed, it is one of the Thirteen Attributes of
Mercy in the verse (Shmot 34:6), "Hashem, Hashem, Kel,
Rachum . . ." Not only did Yaakov's character tend towards the
principle of rachamim (so Kabbalists teach), but his life itself
bore the stamp of Midat Harachamim. In contrast to the living
conditions of his grandfather Avraham and his father Yitzchak,
Yaakov's destiny was under dark clouds and the shadows of night.
His life was one long series of painful ordeals, while external
joys were granted to him rarely and only for short periods. But
just as the night is always followed by morning, bringing with it
the certainty that there exists a G-d of mercy Who faithfully
watches over those who sleep, so too those who suffer feel that
there is a protecting and righteous G-d Who never abandons us,
even in life's darkest hours. This is why Yaakov is credited
with initiating the night prayer, Ma'ariv. This prayer even
begins [for Ashkenazim, on weeknights] with the words, "V'Hu
Rachum"/"And He who is Merciful . . ." (Call of the Torah p.
"Then Yaakov sent angels before him to Esav his brother . .
R' Elyah Lopian z"l (1872-1970; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Etz
Chaim in London - see page 4) asks what is added by the words,
"before him." He explains as follows:
We are taught in Avot (Ch. 4): "One who does a mitzvah acquires
one advocate. One who commits a sin acquires one prosecutor."
In other words, from every mitzvah that a person does, a "good"
angel is created. For example, it is well documented that R'
Yosef Karo z"l (author of the Shulchan Aruch and other works) was
regularly visited by an angel who identified himself as "The
Mishnah." (R' Yosef Karo had undertaken a special study of
mishnah, and, after a time, this angel began to speak to him on a
regular basis.) The good angels that are created by a person's
mitzvot go before the Divine Throne and lobby on the person's
behalf. On the other hand, from every sin that a person commits,
an impure angel is created who attempts to harm the person.
This sheds light on the meaning of the words "before him."
Yaakov did not want to "trouble" angels from Heaven to go to
Esav. He therefore chose his own angels, who were "before him"
as a result of the mitzvot that he had performed, to send to
(Esav, too, had angels that were created as a result of his
deeds, in his case, bad deeds. It was from these that he chose
the 400 "men" who were traveling with him to meet Yaakov.)
From the above, a person should realize that his fate is in his
own hands. A person has the ability to create good angels to
assist him in his spiritual and material endeavors and he has the
ability to create impure angels to harm him. Each person can
make this choice for himself.
The gemara (Berachot 15b) says: "If one reads Shema and is
meticulous in pronouncing its words, Gehinnom is cooled down for
him." What would a person not do to escape from even a moment in
Gehinnom? Here the gemara demonstrates to us that one's fate is
within his own control.
(Lev Eliyahu: Ma'amar "Ki Malachav Yetzaveh Lach")
How did Rashi (to verse 4) know that the "malachim" that Yaakov
sent to Esav were angels rather than human messengers? ["Malachim
can have either meaning.]
R' David Pardo z"l (Bosnia and Israel; 1710-1792) writes: When
Yaakov left Eretz Yisrael, at the beginning of last week's
parashah, he envisioned angels in a prophetic dream. When he
returned to Eretz Yisrael, at the end of last week's parashah, he
saw the angels while he was awake. Yaakov understood from this
that he was to make use of these angels, and Rashi understood
from this that Yaakov did make use of them. This is what the
midrash means when it comments on our verse, "What is written
above? It is written, 'And Yaakov said upon seeing them, "This is
the camp of G-d"'." The midrash means to emphasize that our
verse should be interpreted in light of the fact that Yaakov saw
"Therefore Bnei Yisrael are not to eat the gid ha'nasheh on
the hip socket to this day, because he struck Yaakov's hip
socket on the gid ha'nasheh." (23:33)
R' Samson Raphael Hirsch z"l (Germany; 1808-1888) observes: The
fact that this is being immortalized in a law of the Torah is
only understandable if some fundamental lesson is connected with
it. What is that lesson?
Yaakov's successful fight with the angel assures us that the
spirit of Esav will not be able to conquer Yaakov throughout the
long ages of darkness on earth. Nevertheless, Esav will be able
to hamstring Yaakov, to prevent him from standing firmly on both
feet. This lack of stability is a necessary factor in ultimately
opening Esav's eyes. If Yaakov stood firmly, as Esav stood at
the head of his 400 men [see verse 7], the fact that Yaakov
cannot be conquered would never show the Finger of G-d in
history. Therefore, the descendants of Yaakov (who just because
of their material weakness are "Yisrael," the sign of the sole
conquering power, G-d) are not to eat the gid ha'nasheh.
Whenever we sit down to a meal, R' Hirsch continues, the
admonition from this story of our wanderings comes to us. We are
not to feel as if we are less enduring through the ages because
we are not armed with the sword as Esav is. Our strength lies in
other, higher factors which cannot be weakened by Esav.
(The Hirsch Chumash p. 509)
"He encamped before the city." (33:18)
The midrash says: "He arrived during the twilight and he
The work Avnei Ezel explains: Twilight is when the shadows
lengthen and boundaries become less clearly defined. Yaakov's
strength was that he was capable of setting boundaries where they
Particularly when Yaakov reached the first town where he would
settle in Eretz Yisrael, that was a time to set boundaries. A
line must be drawn between the Torah's conception of settling a
land and building a country and the rest of the world's
conception of the same activities.
(Quoted in Ma'ayanah Shel Torah)
Rabbi Dr. Lord Immanuel Jakobovits z"l
(Harav Yisrael ben Harav Yoel)
This week marks the shloshim of Rabbi Dr. Lord Immanuel
Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the
British Commonwealth from 1967 to 1991. Rabbi Jakobovits was
born on February 8, 1921 in K”nigsberg, Germany (now Kaliningrad
in Russia). His father, Rabbi Julius (Yoel) Jakobovits, fled
from Nazi persecution to England where, until his death in 1947,
he was a member of the bet din of the United Synagogue in London.
Young Immanuel arrived in England in 1936, two years before his
father. He studied at the Jewish Secondary School, Jews' College
and Yeshiva Etz Chaim in London (where he received semichah), and
also earned a Ph.D. degree at London University. His rabbinic
career began in London at the age of 20, soon becoming Rabbi of
the Great Synagogue in East London. In 1949 he accepted a call
to Dublin as Chief Rabbi of the small Jewish community in Ireland
(a position previously held by Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Isaac Herzog
z"l, later Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel).
In 1958, Rabbi Jakobovits became the first rabbi of the new
Fifth Avenue Synagogue, a small, but wealthy orthodox
congregation in New York. He would later write of his years
there: "My challenge has been to make Orthodoxy elegant and
fashionable and to show that you don't have to live in squalor to
be a strictly traditional Jew." In 1967, he returned to London
to become British Chief Rabbi. The search for a Chief Rabbi to
succeed the retiring Rabbi Israel Brodie came as the authority of
the Chief Rabbi was being assailed by both the right and left
wings of orthodoxy as well as by the Reform and Liberal sections
of the community. Rabbi Jakobovits was a staunch upholder of the
German Jewish tradition of R' Samson Raphael Hirsch z"l, and in
his induction sermon in April 1967, he made clear his unyielding
adherence to Tradition. He would uphold the belief in Torah min
hashamayim/the divine origin of Torah, but at the same time would
"do all within my power to close the gaps within our people."
(Rabbi Jakobovits was the first Chief Rabbi to abandon the
uniform worn by his predecessors in favor of the kapote/coat worn
by Central and Eastern European rabbis.)
Within the Anglo-Jewish community, R' Jakobovits' main
contribution was the expansion of facilities for Jewish education
through a trust of which he was the founder and principal
fundraiser. It has been said that he saw himself as the chief
executive of the community and he involved himself in
administrative, organizational and political issues as well as
spiritual, for he saw no valid boundaries between the various
manifestations of organized Jewish life. By the 1970s, Rabbi
Jakobovits was becoming well known outside of Judaism for his
advocacy of traditional moral values. In 1981 he was knighted
and, in 1988, he became a member of the House of Lords, the upper
house of the British Parliament. In his speeches there, Lord
Jakobovits (as he was known) frequently spoke in support of what
Americans call "family values."
Rabbi Jakobovits was the author of Jewish Medical Ethics, and
was a frequent writer and speaker on that subject. He also
published several volumes of collected speeches, sermons and
articles. Other books included Jewish Law Faces Modern Problems
(1965), Journal of a Rabbi (1966), The Timely and the Timeless
(1977) and If Only My People . . . Zionism in My Life (1984).
In 1949, Rabbi Jakobovits married Amalie Munk, daughter of
Rabbi Elie Munk of Paris. They had six children. (This article
is primarily based on an obituary in The Times of London,
November 1, 1999.)