Vayishlach 5772 – Gilayon #728

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Parshat Vayishlah

And Rachel died, and she was

buried on the way to Efrata, which is Bethlehem.

And Jacob erected a monument on

her grave.

And this is the monument of the

tomb of Rachel to this day.

(Gen. 35:19-20)


And Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to

Efrata – the

Sages interpreted (Breshit Raba 82,9), it is an honor to women for their burial to be in the place where they

died, for Rachel died in Bethlehem, and she was buried in Bethlehem, and so we

have found with Sarah, who died in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron, she died in

Hebron, and she was buried in Hebron, as it is said (Gen. 23:19): and afterward Abraham buried,

etc. and we have also found with Miriam, as it is aid (Num. 20:1): and Miriam died there and she

was buried there.

(Rabeinu Bahya, Gen. 35:19)


Scholars of the Land of Israel

disagree about the correct identification of place of the tomb. The verses in

Genesis support the traditional identification for many generations of a site

north of Bethlehem.

However, the verses in the Books of Samuel and Jeremiah provided the basis for

a theory that quotes Midrashim and is supported by evidence, mainly that of

Charles Clermont Ganneau, which place Rachel's Tomb in a site north of Jerusalem near the Hizma Junction, at the entrance

to East Jerusalem. The Arabic name of the

place is Qubur bani ishrail (the Tomb of the Children of Israel).

(from Wikipedia, and see also the article by Dr. Hagi

ben Artsi in the Weekly Page no. 893 of Bar Ilan University)


"And we have found that in all cemeteries one

builds a monument on a grave, but for Tsadikim one does not build a monument on

their graves, because their words are their memorial, and one should not visit

their graves".

(Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Mourning, 4,4)



"Not by might and not by force, but by my spirit."

Ephraim Hamiel


our Parasha, the private story of Jacob and Esau becomes the story of the

general future in which there is a struggle between cultures and nations. The

eternal historical struggle between Edom,

which represents political and material power, with an idolatrous component,

and Israel,

which represents the spiritual and ethical power of the individual, the family,

and the nation, whose liberty derives from the liberty of a transcendent deity,

free of the material that it created, just begins. For Edom, the individual is a tool in

the hands of material and political power. For Israel, political power is a tool

to for the spiritual elevation of the individual and the community.1

Before encountering Esau and

his army, Jacob feels the natural trepidation that arises in any person who is

in uncertainty and physical danger, and he quickly makes arrangements for his

safety.2 For

Jacob, whose personality is one that shuns confrontations, this fear is even

more understandable. He is aware of the divine promise that he received, but in

addition to the fear, which arouses him to action, it is clear to him that he

must do everything that he is capable of, with initiative, with wisdom, and

with a clear mind, and not sit still and do nothing, as he also did in Padan

Aram. He knows that the fulfillment of the promise depends on his being worthy

of it and also on the implementation of the potential of wisdom and initiative

that the Creator graced him with for him to use. Jacob teaches us what the

correct degree of confidence is. A person is not permitted to depend upon

miracles and fold his hands sanctimoniously, like someone to whom everything is

promised. Likewise, it is to be expected of him not to succumb to fear, not to

flee from battle, and not leave those who depend on him exposed to danger. True

heroes fear, but they overcome their fear and do everything they can to escape

danger, and they hope for rescue from God. Only people like that have a chance

of receiving divine assistance.3


the fateful encounter with Esau, Providence

presents Jacob with a further challenge, in order to sharpen awareness of the

mission incumbent upon him and on his progeny, and to prove to him that he

really can confront fear, danger, and threat face to face. During the night

before the encounter Jacob does not manage to fall asleep because of his

anxiety. He rises in the middle of the night with the decision that had matured

within him for tactical reasons, to bring his nuclear family north from

Naharayim to the Yabok Ford to make a larger distance between them and the

other camps, and perhaps he suddenly got cold feet and decided to flee. After

bringing his family and most of his property across, Jacob remains entirely by

himself, and during the whole night, a mysterious man wrestles with him, one

who represents the forces of darkness, who are opposed to the light, which is represented

by Jacob. The purpose of the struggle is to strengthen Jacob for his meeting

with his brother, and Jacob's progeny, throughout the generations, in their

struggle with other cultures. The struggle symbolizes that of the Jewish people

throughout human history, which has been a period of darkness and long exile

for it. In the wrestling match the adversaries grip each other with equal

force, and there is no victor, despite the superhuman physical force of the

man, which is greater than the force of the mortal Jacob. Indeed, Jacob's

physical integrity is injured, for at the end of the battle he is no longer

stable on the earth, but he limps on his dislocated hip. However, his spiritual

strength stands him in good stead. The man who cannot bear light asks the

mortal to free him from his grip, "because the dawn has risen" (32:27). Toward the end of exile,

spiritual and moral strength will gradually increase. The Torah does not tell

us when we will know that the time has come for the rising of the dawn. Do the

voices of liberty, equality, and fraternity, which began to overcome the forces

of subjugation and darkness in the nineteenth century, symbolize its arrival? We

have seen that the dreadful Holocaust came after them. Are the establishment of

the State of Israel and the return of the Jews to their sovereign state in the

twentieth century a sign? For the time being it is impossible to know, and it

could be that it depends primarily upon us. In any event, Jacob demands a

blessing from the man before he permits him to disappear. Only recognition by

the nations of the superiority of the Jews' monotheistic, moral stance, and

their enlistment in that cause, can free the world from the grip of the forces

of darkness. Spiritual power overcomes material power and proves to it that not

only physical force but also pure human values are necessary for the Jacob's

divine spirit to flourish and not to be trampled by sensual-material force. Jacob

now receives that recognition, immediately upon his return to Canaan,

only by virtue of retaining his uniqueness, after not assimilating in the

general human culture that threatened him and that will continue to threaten

him in all his places of exile. According to the biblical view, the nations

always wanted the Jewish spirit to assimilate among them so they could rule

over all of human culture. However, the struggle will end differently, the

Jewish people will retain its uniqueness, and the nations will accept its way

and be blessed by it, as God promised to Abraham. The sinew that the man tore

in Jacob's hip symbolizes physical vulnerability and weakness. Israel

will always remember that material power is subject to the spirit, and so it

will always preserve its uniqueness and strength. The prohibition against

eating the hip sinew is a reminder of that.4 The man announces to Jacob that

he is about to receive a new name, Israel, "because you have

struggled with God [the wrestler] and with men [Laban] and triumphed" (32:29), and he blesses him. From now on

two countenances will vie with one another in Jacob. On the one hand, there is

the sophisticated Jacob, who survives and avoids confrontations, and on the

other hand there is Israel,

erect in stature and bold. The mysterious man disappears at sunrise, and Jacob

calls the place Pniel as a mark of his rescue from the face to face struggle

with a representative of the divine world.

1. See

Maimonides, 32:26, S. R. Hirsch, 32:8.

2. As

distinct from the view of Rashi, Rashba, Hizquni, Rashbam, and

Maimonides, all of whom, respectively, base their interpretation on the

Midrash, saying that Jacob is afraid of causing sin and that the promise will

not be fulfilled, and he will killed, but according to Radak on 1 Samuel 16:2

and on Abarbanel 32:8, who is also quoted by Nehama Leibovitz, Investigations

of the Genesis, p. 247. Cf. Radak 12;12.

3. See

Radak 32:14, Abarbanel ad loc. And also Aqedat Yitshaq in his

introduction to this Parasha.

4. See Sefer Hahinukh Commandment 3, S. R.

Hirsch 32:25-27. Cf. Maimonides 32:25-26, and Abarbanel ad loc. The source for

the this interpretation of the

struggle with the man is in Midrash Leqah Tov, quoted by N. Leibowitz, Inquiries

into Genesis, p. 257.


Ephraim Hamiel is a scholar of modern Jewish thought and teaches at the Hebrew University.



"And Yaakov was left

alone" – Said Rabbi Elazar: He remained (he had forgotten)

for small items. From this we learn that tsaddikim value their property more

than their persons. And why is this? Because they do not steal.

 (Bavli Hullin, 91a)


"And Yaakov was left

alone": Our Rabbis expounded 'alone' (ודבל) were written 'for his pitcher (ודכל), to teach that he returned for small vessels, to teach that

tsaddikim value their property so that they distance themselves from theft – thus

did Rashi explain. The intent of this is that the little children not be

endangered en route by insufficient drink, and therefore he jeopardized himself

by returning, and the adversary confronted him immediately.


Bahya, Bereishit 32:25)


"Therefore the

Children of Israel do not eat the sinew that is on the socket of the

thigh" This is to say that it is right that the

Children of Israel be fined and punished by the prohibition against eating that

sinew, for they left their father alone, as is written "And Yaakov was

left alone". They were brave men, and they should have waited for

their father to help him if necessary, yet they did not

accompany him and because of them he was injured, and from here on this

will be a remembrance and they will be diligent in the mitzvah of 'levaya'accompaniment – and

therefore Yosef accompanied Yaakov.

(Hizkuni, Bereishit 32:33)



a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." – the torah's

doctrine of warfare and its ethics of battle

 "And a man wrestled with him"; not Yaakov, but his antagonist, is the

attacker; Yaakov fights a defensive battle. As long as night covers

the earth, as long as man's consciousness is dim, and things are confused

beyond recognition to the point where it is impossible to ascertain their truth

and their clarity, throughout all this time he may expect struggle and

opposition – this is the content of that nocturnal experience, which is, in

itself, but an answer to Yaakov's cry. He must wrestle with "the

Minister of Esav"… dressed in royal garb, his sword at his

side, and the struggle will continue until darkness departs from the

face of the earth.

(Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch on Bereishit 32:25)



esau ran… And he embraced him… And he kissed him and they wept': is it

possible to trust him?

And Esau ran to meet him… and kissed him": Do not read 'and he

kissed him' (vayishakehu) but 'and he bit him' (vayinshachehu).

(Pirkei Derabbi Eliezer XXXVI).


"And he kissed him" – the word

has dots above it. Should one suppose that this was a kiss of love? R. Shimon

ben Elazar said: But were not all Esau's acts of hate at the beginning? –

Except for this one, which was an act of love.

 (Avot Derrabi Natan II)



word "and they wept" is a sure sign that we have before us

pure human emotion. A person may indeed kiss without his heart being in it, but

we can rest on the assumption that the tears which burst forth at such moments

come from the depths of the heart; this kiss and these tears show us that Esau

too was a descendant of Abraham our father, and not just a savage hunter, for

how else could he have attained the rank of a ruler in the development of

mankind? The sword alone, mere physical force, do not make a person fit for

such status.


the commentary of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch on the Torah)



they wept" – Both of them wept. This teaches us that, at that

moment, love for Esau stirred in Jacob too. And so it is down the generations:

when the descendants of Esau are inspired by a pure spirit to recognise the

descendants of Israel

and their qualities, then we too are stimulated to recognise Esau, for he is

our brother. Thus Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi truly loved the Emperor Antoninus – and

there are many more such examples.


the commentary "Haemek Davar" of R. Naphtali Zvi Yehuda Berlin)


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