Vayishlach

After leaving Lavan’s territory, Yaakov sent angelic messengers to find out about Esav’s whereabouts. The messengers returned, informing Yaakov that Esav was approaching with an army of 400 people, potentially looking for revenge on the blessings which Yaakov had rightfully taken (Bereishit Rabbah 75:12).

Yaakov immediately prepared for war, a preparation which many Jews would model on, later on the years. He divided his camp in two, if one falls the other would survive; he prayed to Hashem for aid during the war and finally he prepared a most lavish gift for Esav, to appease/ bribe him, in order to avoid the fight.

On the eve of the encounter, Yaakov met the ‘angel’ of Esav; they wrestled throughout the night (Bereishit 32:23-31), Yaakov emerged victorious however he was left with an injured sinew in his thigh (which is the reason that it is forbidden to eat the sciatic nerve of a kosher animal (Chullin 91a)). The angel informed him that his name in the future will be Yisrael, signifying that he has prevailed against man (Lavan) and the supernatural (the angel of Esav) (Midrash Lekach Tov).

Yaakov and Esav then met the following day and at the sight of each other embraced each other, perhaps Esav was touched by the huge gift, or he genuinely felt joy at seeing his brother for the first time in around 35 years; however Yaakov, was still fearful of his brother, and rejected Esav’s offer that they should dwell together (Bereishit 33:12).

Esav met all of Yaakov’s family for the first time. Interestingly enough, Yaakov’s daughter, Dina, was hidden in a box, so to avoid Esav, since if he was to see her, he would want to marry her. The sages in fact said that if Dina was at the end seen by Esav, and they did end up marrying each other, it could have potentially brought about a huge change in Esav for the better and may have made him completely repent for all his past misdeeds, however it wasn’t to be (Rashi). The Sages furthermore, criticize and suggest that all punishments that was to befall Dina and Yaakov later on within regards to Shechem and Yosef respectively were brought about in retribution by not encouraging a marriage between Esav and Dina, this teaches us how important it is try and help and assist our fellow Jews or neighbors to repent for past misdeeds, change there ways for the better if they are in a troubled state and bring them about on the correct path, as we have the potential to change many lives for the good with positive actions we may be unaware about.

As Yaakov and his family travelled on from Succoth to the city Shechem, Shechem, a Canaanite prince, then abducted and violated Dina (Pirkei D'Rav Eliezer 37/ Yoma 77b -Rashi), Yaakov’s daughter. In return for Dina’s hand in marriage, the prince and his father, Shechem, suggested that Yaakov and his family should intermarry and enjoy the fruits of Caananite prosperity. However in retribution, Yaakov’s sons, still fuming from Shechem’s outrageous behavior, feigned the agreement; however, they stipulated that all the males of the city must undergo a Brit Mila, in order for the deal to take effect (Bereishit 34:15).

Shimon and Levi, two of Dina’s brothers, entered the town of Shechem and executed all the males in the city who were weakened by the circumcision (Bereishit 34:25). This action was justified as no one in the city of Shechem objected to the shocking behavior of Shechem, also proving that they had no proper judicial system which is a violation to one of the Noachide laws.

G-d then commanded Yaakov to go to the land of Beit-kel and build an altar and sacrifice an offering to Hashem. His mother’s nurse, Devorah, died and was buried below Beit-kel. In fact, the Torah, by mentioning the death of Devorah, was also hinting to the death of Yaakov's mother, Rivkah (Rashi/ Ramban). G-d then appeared again to Yaakov, blessed him and changed his name to Yisrael – a name signifying the Jewish people. (Bereishit 35:10)
While traveling from the land of Beit-kel, Rachel went into labor and gave birth to Benyamin, the twelfth of the tribes of Israel. Unfortunately, She died in childbirth and was buried on the Beit Lechem Road, her death in fact was due to the curse Yaakov had brought upon the person who stole Lavan’s ‘Idols’ in last weeks reading, without realizing it he in fact cursed Rachel as she stole and hid Lavan’s idols (Bereishit 31:32). Yaakov then built a monument for her. She was buried on the roadside, outside of Bethlehem, so that in the future, when the Jews would pass that road during the Babylonian exile, she could pray for them (Jeremiah 31:14).

The Parshah then mentions Yitzchak passing away at the age of 180 years and was buried by his sons. The reading concludes by listing Esav’s descendants (Bereishit 36:1-43).

The Haftorah from this weeks reading is from the book of ‘Ovadia (Ovadia 1:1-21)’, who was a later prophet and also converted to Judaism, an Edomite convert.

I would like to dedicate this Dvar Torah to the Yahrzeit of my Uncle, ‘Dovid Ben Shalom Shlomo.’
Have a great Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom!!