Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Vayishlach

Human Effort and Supernatural Help

In this week’s parsha, our father Yaakov, fresh from his successful escape from Lavan, prepares to encounter his brother and sworn enemy, Eisav. He sends malachim to deal with Eisav before he will actually meet with him face to face. The word malachim signifies two different meanings. One is that it means agents, messengers, human beings who were sent on a particular mission to do Yaakov’s bidding. The other meaning is that the world malachim signifies angels, supernatural messengers of God who were sent to Yaakov to help him in his fateful encounter with his brother.

Rashi cites both possible interpretations in his commentary. When Rashi does so, he is teaching us that both interpretations are correct at differing levels of understanding the verse involved. The message here is that the encounter with Eisav, in order to be successful from Yaakov’s vantage point and situation, has to have both human and supernatural help.

Eisav is a formidable foe, physically, militarily, culturally and intellectually speaking. He cannot be ignored nor wished away. He has accompanied us from the time of Yaakov till this very day. At times he threatens our very existence and at times he appears to have a more benevolent attitude towards us.

Yet at all times he is there, hovering over and around us, and he has never relinquished any of his demands upon us to either convert, assimilate or just plain disappear. While it is Yishmael that currently occupies the bulk of our attention, it would be foolish of us to ignore the continuing presence of Eisav in our world and affairs.

Yaakov’s strategy is to employ both possibilities of malachim in his defense. He prepares himself for soothing Eisav by gifts and wealth, pointing out to Eisav that it is beneficial to him to have Yaakov around and being productive. He also strengthens himself spiritually in prayer and in appeal to God to deliver him from Eisav. And finally as a last resort he is prepared to fight Eisav with his own weapons, the sword and war.

Two of these strategies – gifts to Eisav and war against Eisav – require human endeavor, talent and sacrifice. They are the representative of the interpretation of malachim as being human agents and messengers. The third strategy, prayer and reliance upon heavenly intervention to thwart Eisav’s evil designs, follows the idea that Yaakov’s malachim were heavenly, supernatural creatures.

In the long history of our encounter with Eisav we have always relied upon both interpretations of malachim. Neither interpretation by itself will suffice to defeat Eisav. Without human endeavor and sacrifice, heavenly aid is often denied or diminished.

According to the labor is the reward. But it is foolish to believe that a small and beleaguered people can by itself weather all storms and defeat Eisav’s intentions solely by its own efforts.

Without the Lord in our help, in vain do we attempt to build our national home. Thus the double meaning of malachim in this week’s parsha has great relevance to ourselves and our situation.

Shabat shalom.

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 






ARTICLES ON LECH LECHA:

View Complete List

The Deeds of the Patriachs
Shlomo Katz - 5772

The House that Truth Built
Rabbi Label Lam - 5762

The Ordeal of Departure
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5767

ArtScroll

A "Sneak Preview" of History
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

He Thinks Highly of You
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5775

A Fuzzy Picture
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Don't Doubt My G-d
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5775

From Egypt to Israel
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

The Lesson of Avraham
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5763

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

And Swing with All Your Might
Rabbi Label Lam - 5760

Count Us If You Can
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5758

The Landlord Is Still Home
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5774

> Living Miraculously
Rabbi Label Lam - 5766

Jealousy or Love?
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

Avram Lifted Up His Hand...So That You Not Say
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773

Spiritual Yichus
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information