After leaving Lavan’s territory, Yaakov sent angelic messengers to find out Esav’s whereabouts. The messengers returned, informing Yaakov that Esav was approaching with an army of 400 people, and potentially looking for revenge for the blessings which Yaakov had rightfully taken (Bereishit Rabbah 75:12).
Yaakov immediately prepared for war, in a way that many Jews used as a model in later years. He divided his camp in two so that if one fell the other would survive; he prayed to Hashem for aid during the war, and finally he prepared a lavish gift for Esav, to appease/bribe him and perhaps avoid the fight.
On the eve of the encounter, Yaakov met the ‘angel’ of Esav and they wrestled throughout the night (Bereishit 32:23-31), Yaakov emerged victorious, although 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 would be Yisrael, signifying that he had prevailed against man (Lavan) and the supernatural (the angel of Esav) (Midrash Lekach Tov).
Yaakov and Esav met the following day and embraced at the sight of 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, Yaakov, however, was still fearful of his brother, and rejected Esav’s offer that they should dwell together (Bereishit 33:12).
Esav then met all of Yaakov’s family for the first time. Interestingly enough, we learn that Yaakov’s daughter, Dina, was hidden from Esav in a box, since if he saw her, he would want to marry her. The sages in fact said that if Dina had been seen by Esav, and they did end up marrying each other, it could have brought about a huge change for the better in Esav and may have made him completely repent for all his past misdeeds; however, it wasn’t to be (Rashi). The Sages criticize this further, suggesting that all the punishments that befell Dina and Yaakov later on with regards to Shechem and Yosef respectively were retribution for 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 their ways for the better if they are in a troubled state and bring them to the correct path; we have the potential to change many lives for the good with positive actions and we may not be aware of this.
As Yaakov and his family travelled on from Succoth to the city of Shechem, Shechem, a Canaanite prince, 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, suggested that Yaakov and his family should intermarry and enjoy the fruits of Caananite prosperity. However, Yaakov’s sons were angered by Shechem’s outrageous behaviour, and they pretended to agree, but stipulated that all the males of the city must undergo a Brit Mila, as a condition (Bereishit 34:15). Shimon and Levi, two of Dina’s brothers, took advantage of this. They 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 seen as justified, as no one in the city of Shechem had objected to the shocking behavior of Shechem. The actions of the Canaanites also demonstrated that they had no proper judicial system, which is a violation of 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, and by mentioning the death of Devorah, the Torah also hints about the death of Yaakov's mother, Rivkah. 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, who became the twelfth tribe of Israel. Unfortunately, she died in childbirth and was buried on the Beit Lechem Road. Her death was attributed to the curse Yaakov had brought upon the person who stole Lavan’s ‘Idols’ [in last week’s reading]. Without realizing it, he had 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 that Yitzchak passed 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 week’s reading is from the book of ‘Ovadia (Ovadia 1:1-21)’, who was a later prophet and who 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!!