Toledot 5774 – Gilayon #823
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the words of her oldest son Esau were reported to Rebecca, she sent her
youngest son Jacob and said to him: Your brother Esau is consoling himself by
planning to kill you. Now my son, listen to me. Flee at once to
, to my brother Haran
…Were reported to her… The
Holy Spirit reported what Esau was planning in his heart.
…Consoling himself… was
consoled by the brotherhood between them. Otherwise he would have been totally
estranged and killed him. And in Midrash and Agaddah: You are already dead in
his eyes and he drank a cup of consolation over you. And literally: The
language of consolation is one of consoling him with the blessings when he
kills you (Rashi,
ibid). And, if you say that even in the Midrash this is the language
of consolation, then it is not the language of calculated thinking, then we
interpret it as being consoled by the blessings and not as a cup of
(Siftei Chachamim, IBID))
– From console, comfort. The reason is his consolation could kill.
(Ibn Ezra, Ibid)
– It is known that when the grammatical form "hitpael" is used that
it can signify an imagined action, that is not true, like "One man
pretends to be rich," (Mishlei). Pretends to be rich and is not, and so also
with pretends to be poor, blessed, estranged and others, and here too,
consoled. He pretends to be consoled, content and affable with you, as if he
holds no grudge about the blessings, but inwardly, he is plotting to kill you
and only to save himself from you, he is hiding his animosity. And this is
proof that Rebecca knew this from the Holy Spirit, as Esau presented himself as
beloved and certainly would not reveal his true intentions to anyone.
The story of Jacob is
one of the oldest in the Bible. Continuing over seven parshiyot and 27
chapters, his life's path is complete with encounters and departures. In the
Book of Genesis, there is a repeated phenomenon of departures. So it is between
Esau. The first words of departure before their birth are when Rebecca and her
sons go to seek God (Gen
25:22-23), and she is answered with the prophetic
response, "And God said to her," and on this it is already said by Baal
Ohr HaHaim: "This text has many interpretations," and so it has:
by way of a messenger. Rashbam: by way of a prophet. Raba: by way
of a prophet or Abraham. Radak: The prophet is Abraham. Rambam:
by the way of an angel.1
A Mysterious Happening
The answer – prophecy
is styled as poetic and it has in it parables and mystery.
nations are in your womb
One nation shall be Mightier
than the other
two nations will separate from Your
and the older will serve
It is not clear; which
nation will be stronger and when? Who is the older and who is the younger? Who
will serve whom? There are those that interpret this as an omen for the future.
So says the Rashbam: "All the future was told to her" and so
says the Radak: "This is the difference… God gave her a sign of
what the future holds which is in the Midrash Aggadah2". He replies to
Rebecca with a detailed description which ends with the tidings: "And Shem
son of Noah answered in the name of God My daughter, know that I am about to
reveal to you something mysterious, and you, my daughter, must be careful that
no one knows of what I speak to you about: Two nations are in your womb.
And how shall you carry them? The nations of the world cannot carry their
weight, to have them sit together in peace – how can your womb support them?"
separated from your body… to two worlds, each to a world of his own
making. One will pride himself on his world and the other will be proud of his
world of the Torah, and the other boasting of his transgressions. One appoints
Solomon to build the temple and the other appoints his enemy, who conflicts
with him and destroys him.
And one nation shall
be stronger than the other – Seventy nations minus two were created
in the world and now two more emerge from you that complete the seventy nations
of the world, but two are not equal. When one is up, the other is down. In the
time that Esau establishes a lineage of kings, Jacob establishes a lineage of
prophets. One boasts of his words and the other boasts of his kingdom. And both
Esau, the Red, being the Romans, and all the nations despise
both of them rule the whole world. However, first the descendents of Esau will
rule by force, and in the end, in the world to come, the descendents of Jacob
will rule the world.
The elder shall rule
the younger – When? When
does the will of God, but when
does not do God's will, the older will rule the younger.
Until the fulfillment
of the message, in the end of days, the nation will have a series of setbacks
and failures, "And all the nations will despise
"And when one falls the other rises". (Megila 6:1)
– Rashi: "Not nations but kingdoms". And RSR Hirsch defines
the two nations: "Ethics and power will be posed against each other's
paths (continuing from there) "nation from nation – The entire
history is none other than this one struggle: Who will have the upper hand, the
hand with the book or the hand with the sword, the way of Jerusalem or the way
of the Caesars. (Megila,
When Jacob summarizes
his path in life when he meets Pharaoh: "My days have been short and hard…"
This sentence may explain the obstacles that Jacob overcame when he fled from
Esau and is exiled to Laban in
And from there he flees again. Jacob's way is characterized by hard and
tortuous struggles, from attaining his birthright, the blessing, to attaining a
wife, attaining his possessions, the struggle with the man-angel, which maybe
is the deciding struggle for his image and the image of
describes Jacob's way…"The Lord once indicted
conduct, requited him for his deeds." (Hosea 12:3)
With all this, Jacob's way is accompanied by encounters with angels, from the
beginning with the dream of the ladder, he received two promises, the promise
of the land to him and his seed (28:14) which is the
promise of Abraham in his blessing to his father Isaac (28:4)
and the promise of watching over him:"I am with you: I will protect you
wherever you go" (28:15).
Rashi comments "because he feared from Esau and Laban" .
And we are amazed, is
this a dream or reality before us? On this the Rambam replies:3 "Jacob's dream is
a prophetic parable of which every word in the parable has meaning."
The Rambam continues4
"The witnessing of the angels is just the witnessing of the prophecy,"
and still, according to the Radak "There are many opinions about
the interpretation of this dream" Rasag: "As if it were a
ladder" Raba: "A ladder is always a symbol…"Radak: In
the name of the Midrash (B'R
68:18) "God showed him the giving of the Torah at
Sinai," (Sinai and sulam=130 in gematria). The Radak continues that here
there was a revelation: "How awesome is this place, because God revealed
These are just some of the opinions that try to interpret the dream…
The Struggle – The Revelation
Jacob is granted a
special relationship with the angels who escorted him and when it is said, "Jacob
went on his way, and angels of God encountered him," (32:1)
The Rashbam explains: "They encountered him to protect him."
After the promise of protection comes a unique puzzling encounter: "Jacob
was left alone. And a man wrestled with him..." (32:35)
and on this subject there are many commentaries who were stumped by this
incident. The Rambam (ibid, part 2, p 281-2),
after he mentions Abraham's meeting with 'three people' as the 'revelation and
secret of secrets', (he continues) I also say about the encounter with Jacob "The
man wrestled with him" that that was in the image of revelation…"
The Ramban (32:26):
"The whole incident is an allusion to the future generations…"
The Conflict Between
Nation in the Future
with a shrewd outlook on the past and present, states, "That in this book
there are many historical things that happen in the past and will happen again
in the future…" and he continues: "The central subject of this
parasha is the struggle between
and the nations. There are hints of things to come, the future destiny of the
nation." He continues about the encounter of Jacob and "the man,"
who he calls "The man wrapped in mystery" and continues, "The
mystery that hovers over this story, the refusal to identify himself; these are
the clear signs of the historical struggle that will be between
and the nations in every generation…"
in the continuation, regarding the bidding farewell of the angels from Jacob: "A
farewell of this nature, in reality means: We will meet again. The struggle
will continue in the coming future."6 Soloveitchik, in another place, (Chapters in the Rav's
Thought, page 169) adds: "Jacob emerged as the winner
in this glorious formidable encounter" and he continues by asking "If
this is the case, is this not just the story of an individual? Is not the story
of all of
enfolded here, an entity that has an "absurd" struggle for existence
and life over thousands of years?"
The Man Cloaked in Mystery
From the general we
will move to the particular, and to the questions: Who is the man? What is the
meaning of the struggle? In light of the many explanations that deal with the
identity of the "man" we can say that there is no absolute decision…
In the Gamara (Hulin 92:1)
"Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nahmani says he resembled a stranger…"
Rabbi Shmuel Bar Aha…."He
looked like a scholar." And in the Midrash (B"R 77:2)
R. Hiah Bar Hunia says: "He look to him like a shepherd." R. Hiah Bar
Hanina says:" an officer of Esau." (Ibid, 73:3)
And in The Legends
of the Jews7
"this shepherd was the angel Michael, the most important angel." In
light of this, it seems to us that Louis Ginsberg's comment, is, that, in fact,
we really don't know who the man is.
Jacob on his Own
Possibly it means that
the word alone means that the struggle was within Jacob's soul. And that
is how the Rambam's (see above) explanation can be understood, that the
encounter was in the image of the prophecy, that is to say, in the dream. This
is also the way of Radak and Ralbag. Radak explains, "This event…is
only imagination. He thought there was a man and there wasn't…," and
also the Ralbag "and he imagined in the prophecy the angel of God,
as if there was a man, and we agree there was wrestling in his sleep…"To
this commentary (Rambam, Radak, Ralbag) that the struggle was a dream in his
sleep…we should add that from here it can be understood how in this sentence
there is only one word that separates between "alone" and "the
approach is interesting8
because it testifies to the complexity that appears in the other commentaries.
Do we have here a prophecy, a dream or a physical, sensual struggle? And he
writes, "And Jacob had a battle with his officer that is with his evil
inclination (Yetzer Hara) within his body…" Nonetheless, he writes, "And
the angel was dress in a worldly way (because it was a tangible prophecy) (this
is in the original, probably the compilers comment), Because the angel presents
himself as a person…as opposed to what the Malbim continues:" His soul
remains alone and isolated with the spiritual illumination…and then he
summarizes his commentary with the dual meaning: "Our matter at hand is
that he has no essence and does not exist, he puts on an image and takes off an
As a Man Embraces his Friend
Because the verb 'and
he wrestled' is a personal verb, it has two interpretations in the Gamara (Hulin, 81:71)
and both by R Yehoshua Ben Levi: "We should read: When he
wrestled with him" (32:25),"
as a man embraces his friend." In the continuation, the Gamara brings the
second version of R. Yehoshua Ben Levi: "Wrestled with him, teaches that
they kicked up dust from their feet up to the throne of honor."
translates "And wrestled" as rare word in Aramaic ואישתדל (from trying) and Ramban already
testified that Onkelos also translated like this in Exodus 22:5, "If
a man seduces.." Rashi explains here that in Aramaic, trying is like
seducing in Hebrew. Ramban does not agree with Rashi and thinks that Onkelos'
intention was from the language of "tricking" which is in A.Z.
In the introduction to Avigdor Shinan's book10, according to Shinan, caress-catch, while Even
Shoshan, in his dictionary, defines caress – embrace.11
It is interesting to
note that many artists (Dore, Delacroix and others) depict in their drawings a
struggle between Jacob and the angel, while Rembrandt12 in his paintings depicts a meeting of embracing
without a struggle.
We know that the
man-angel did succeed in his struggle, as it says, "And he saw that he
could not overcome him." (32:36) Rabbi Berhia said: We don't know who
won, the angel or Jacob. (B"R
7:3) And when the angel says, "You have striven with beings
divine and human, and have prevailed, (32:29), Soloveitchik has
this to say, (see
above, p.11), "Jacob emerges as the winner in this
glorious formidable encounter" and continues, the struggle is for all of
"a struggle for existence and life over thousands of years."
1. In guide to
the Perplexed, Schwartz Edition, Part 2, 41, in the continuation the Rambam
explains that a prophet is alos called an angel, see p.404
2. The Legends of the Jews. Louis Ginsberg,
part 6, Isaac and Jacob,page 65
3. In the introduction to Guide to the Perplexed,see
also part 1,15
4. Ibid,part 2. Chaperter 6,p281-282
5. Divrei Hashkafa, from a pamphlet of the
Education and Cultural Department of Toarah Education in the Diaspora, in the
chapter ‘Jacob and Esau', Parshat Vayishlach, p 21-25
6. Ibid. On page 24 he gives a reason for
anti-Semitism as a result of the relationship between
is no logical basis."
7. Ibid,, page 125,also page 248, the legend
is based on another legend where it is also said, "Michael was appointed
to be an officer of
and on page 249,Ginzberg writes that there is no final decision on who the
8. Hamlbim, Pardes Yerushalaim, 1956 ,
9. Mifrashei Hamikra, Darchaihem veshitatam,
5734,part 2, p.981,798.
10. Mikra Achad, vetirgumim harbeh, TA:
Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1993. Page 47
11. The verb "gafaf" caress appears
several times in Sanhedrin. See Mishna Sanhedrin page 60:2. Also Steinsaltz
defines caress as embrace.
12. Rembrandt lived in a Jewish area of
days and probably heard of this idea from his Jewish friends.
Salantm, Member of Kibbutz Saad
Be Built Only Through Peace
They did not fight
over the third well, because the third Temple will be built by the Messiah of
whom it is said, In token of
abundant authority and of peace without limit (Isaiah 9:6),
for there shall only be peace and truth in his day, that is why it was
called Rehovot, for then
God will expand (yirhav) their borders. When conflict is afoot or two sides
combat each other, even if they be in a city as large as
them to live together. Even the most spacious location will be too small for
them and will not be able to bear them, as is, in our iniquity, our custom to
this day. The opposite will be true when there is peace upon
though we will be fruitful in the land and many will be its inhabitants, in any
case the Land shall be spacious for them and no one will trouble them… for in
a time of peace, we shall
increase in the land, for they will have no cause to leave it.
(Kli Yakar 26: 22)
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