Vayishlach 5773 – Gilayon #776

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Parshat Vayishlah

These are the kings who reigned in the land of edom

Before any king ruled over the children of israel

(Bereishit 36:31)


Before any

king ruled – before Moshe ruled over them at the commandment of the Blessed

One, as is written "And He commanded him to the Children of Israel" …"

 (Sforno, Bereishit ibid. ibid.)


Before any

king ruled- Esav's destiny unfolds according to

the natural law of causality, according to the law of "the sword".

While Yaakov's descendants suffer in Egyptian servitude, before there arises

their first leader – Moshe – Edom

was already a flourishing nation, led by royal dynasties. This gap is also

alluded to in Joshua (24:4): "I gave Esav

Mt. Seir for an inheritance, while Yaakov and his sons descended to Egypt".

(RaSHaR Hirsch, ibid. ibid)


These are

the kings … RaSHBaM, Ibn Ezra, and others explained that Moshe himself

was called 'king', as is written "And when Yeshurun

was king". This seems to me quite reasonable because the word 'king' – melechis derived from 'leader' – molichand Moshe lead and directed

Israel, even though the passage "And when Yeshurun

was king" does not, in my opinion, refer to Moshe. There are those who

ask: If only four generations passed, how could eight kings have reigned after Esav's

death, and who knows how much time passed after Esav's

death before the kings began to reign? My first answer is that – as I shall elsewhere

explain in complete certainty- that it is impossible that only four generations

passed from Yaakov to Moshe, for without doubt our forefathers dwelt in Egypt

four hundred years. And my second answer is that these kings were not father

and son, all belonged to a different family, and who knows how many wars took

place in Edom, and how many kings died in battle and other reigned in their



ibid. ibid.)


The solution to his puzzle is a mystery

Yitzchak Meir

The passage "And the Lord said, 'Let us make a human in our

image, by our likeness" (Bereishit 1:26) has always been a cause for bewilderment.

"The Lord said" appears in the singular. What does He say? Let us

make, in our image, by our likeness – in the plural! Although "Elohim" [Hebrew for "the Lord"] is in the

plural mode, in essence it is singular. "You [singular form]

yourself were shown to know that God He is the

Elohim, there is none beside Him" (Devarim

4:35). He who is "none beside Him" – to whom does He

say "Let us make"? With whom does He intend to create a human?

Is "Let us make" but a conventional form designating, as it

were, prior planning, which does not at all imply any partners in the act of

creation of which it is written "And the Lord created [singular]

the human in His image…" (1:27)?

He alone, a one and only creator, says "Let us create" – in the

plural- is this to teach us proper behavior; i.e. that even He, exalted

above all men, consults with his entourage, even if only for the sake of

appearance. No doubt an edifying explanation, but hardly 'p'shat' – literal understanding. And

if we do wish to expound homiletically – drash

a more feasible explanation would be as follows: Even though the Creator

is a sole creator, he involves the created one himself in the process of

bringing His creation to fruition. Let us make a human, I and you, I

and the human whom I will create will create a human, not I and a celestial

entourage, not I and angels on high, I together with man! [Translator's

note: The Hebrew "Adam" is both a proper noun and a species – man.

Modern gender-sensitive translators prefer to translate adam

as 'human']

How? Before creation? During creation? Immediately

following creation? How indeed.

And the Lord God

fashioned from the soil each beast of the field and each fowl of the heavens

and brought each to the human to see what he would call it, and whatever the

human called a living creature, that was its name" (Bereishit 2:19). God brings his nameless and undefined

creations to the human, and asks him to autonomously complete creation by

giving names. The name is not only a term of identification. The name is the

identity itself. And God, the creator, authorizes man, His partner, to bestow

upon each creation its name, or, if you will, its essence. "and whatever the human called a living creature, that was

its name

Man, happy that his Creator depends upon him to complete the creation,

goes immediately to assign "names to all the cattle and to the fowl of the

heavens and to all the bests of the field" (20). This one-time intellectual task proceeds

nicely until coming up against a seemingly impassable obstacle, "…but

for the human being no sustainer beside him was to be found" (ibid.)! Why? For how can he assign a name to

him of whom it was said "…in His image did the Lord create him, male

and female did he create them", (1:27),

and here he finds only him, but he does not find them. What name

in the world can express the identity of a being whose essence is he and

they as one? "Adam"? Only "Adam"! There is no other.

But this he-they is nameless. He is in need of a counterpart

name, not opposite him, but alongside him, and they are in need of a

counterpart name. This is the essence. But what name is there for a being

alongside a being which is a single being? A sense of offense wafts in the

air, not formulated in words but with weighty presence, until the Lord himself,

as it were, cannot ignore it. Immediately – :"And the Lord cast a deep

slumber on the human…" (21).

He takes one of his ribs, and builds it into a woman possessing exceptional understanding,

brings her to the man who has remained frozen in his journey of name-calling,

and he, half a being, astounded, says, "…This one at last, bone of my

bones and flesh of my flesh, this one shall be called woman". He

gives a name to that it-they and thereby –as partner with the Creator – completes

that he and that she, the man and the woman, the mutual

alongside, and from here on Adam – Man is the expression of his essence,

and woman and man together are a single creation whose name as well as essence

is Adam – man.

From the above it is clear that the clarification of the meaning of the

name and its carrier are of special interest. Facing the burning bush in the

desert stands a lone man to whom God has revealed himself and charged with a super-human

mission – to liberate a nation of slaves from the Egyptian super-power and to

lead them to worship Him in the promised land. Moshe

sees, Moshe hears, Moshe is dumbstruck by the revelation. When he will come

before the millions of slaves and choose – if, indeed, he will so choose – to

share the hypnotic experience he has experienced, will they trust him? Will

they blindly follow his vision? They will ask him what is

the essence of God who revealed himself in fire. "And Moshe

said to God, 'Look, when I come to the Israelites and say to them, "The

God of your fathers has sent me to you", and they will say to me, What is His name?" what shall I say to

them?" (Shemot 3:13). God replies that His name is " 'Ehyeh-'Asher-'Ehyeh" – "I-Will-Be-Who-I-Will-Be"

and He said, Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ' 'Ehyeh

has sent me to you'…That is My name forever and thus I am invoked in

all ages" (14-15). God's being everywhere and forever, in

all past and all future, that is his eternal name or essence.

During the oppressive forty-year Philistine occupation, in the period

of the Judges, the despairing Israelite's hope lay in the prayer that some day

his children will bring light into his life. Manoach's

family did not merit progeny. One day, Manoach's wife

came to him with the exciting message that "A man of God came to me, and

he looked like an angel of God, very frightening. I did not ask him where he

was from, nor did he tell me his name. He said to me, You

are going to conceive and bear a son…" (Shofetim 13 6-7).

Manoach fears that his spouse has fallen victim to hallucination, and requests

that the man of God again appear with the message. God answers him, and behold!

the man who had the visage of an angel has become a messenger with the face of

a man, and he does indeed appear and apprises Manoach and his wire that a son

will be born to them, that he will be a noble nazirite in Israel.

Manoach, skeptical and devoid of hope, wants

to test the messenger's reliability, to discern the essence of his position,

and asks, "Who is your name? We should like to honor you when your

words come true" ((17). Not what is your name, but who is

your name, what is the essence of your name, the essence of a man or of an

angel. The harbinger, like every harbinger, chooses to remain a mystery. He is

not persona. He is neither who nor what. He is a message,

and his response, without an iota of admonition is "You must not ask for

my name; it is a mystery " (18). Mystery – distinct from

the world of names, from the world of known essences. Not everything

which man would master through assignment of a name can he master. It is not

good to live in a world in which everything is explicit. Room must be left for

the "Why do you ask?"

The prophet Hosea (12:4-5) gives

voice to the two identities of our father Yaakov "In the womb he tried to

supplant his brother; grown to manhood, he struggled with a divine being. He

strove with an angel and prevailed – the other had to weep and implore him. At

Bet el [Yaakov] would meet us, there to commune with us." One identity is

that of the brother who will not reconcile himself to his inferiority vis a vis his firstborn brother. Already in

his mother's womb he seizes, as it were, the heel of his brother, trying to

precede him, a symbol of things to come. Both birthright and blessing will he

obtain, one with a pot of lentils, the other through deception.

His name, "Yaakov", his identity, is from the root ayin' kof' bet'. [Trans.

note: This is the root for both 'heel' and 'to deceive']. This is his essence,

until the point where "Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him

until the break of dawn" (Bereishit 32:25). He no longer struggles with his brother

but with himself and with his Lord , with strength

flowing from within himself and not from the congenital antagonism, … "grown

to manhood, he struggled with a divine being" He sheds his twisted crooked

identity and acquires an identity which attests to his integrity before God. His

essence becomes "Yisrael", –

Your name shall no longer be Yaakov, but Yisrael, for you

have striven with beings divine and human and have prevailed (29).

The essence of the name Yisrael is twofold; the essence of the

struggle, invoked by the embedded "sara"

[wrestled] in contrast to "a man simple" and submissive – and the

essence of "yashar" – straight,

honest, as against "Yaakov" ["he will be devious"]. The

change of name is a change of destiny. From hereon, it will be a destiny of

struggle. Against Esav. Against Esav's minister. Against the ministers

of Esav throughout the generations. Against those decrees resulting from

hester panimfrom God's hiding His

countenance. Struggles which can be won only when those leading

the struggles will be people proven in the crucible of integrity, personal and

national, Yisrael. Yaakov so desires to learn the identity

of the man-angel or of the angel-man who brought him the tidings of his name

change. But this is not to be. There are essences which cannot be deciphered…

essences of 'Why should you ask my name', and the puzzle of eternal existence,

and the solution of the puzzle is beyond knowing . . .

Yitzchak Meir, former Israeli ambassador, is an

educator and writer.


"Then jacob

was greatly afraid and distressed": there are no victors in war

"Then Jacob was greatly afraid and

distressed": R. Yehuda said in the name of R. Ilai:

There was no fear and no distress, but 'And he was afraid' in case he should

kill 'and he was distressed' in case he should be killed. He said, if he

overcomes me, he kills me, and if I overcome him, I kill him. (This is the

meaning of the double expression) 'And he was afraid' that he might kill, 'and

distressed that he might be killed.


Rabba Genesis 76).


Monument and Alter as Expressions of the Tie between

God and Man

A monument not

manmade but a single stone in its natural state, created by God, is

suitable to serve as a memorial stone of God's beneficence to man, therefore it

was "favored by the patriarchs" because their mission was first and

foremost to publicize the name of their Maker in the world as one who functions

both in nature and in history.

Torah was not

yet given, and man was not obliged to devote his entire life – individual and

public life – to the realization of God's will. Therefore there was place both

for monument – sign of God's action towards man, and alongside it, an

altar – sign of the offering of man's being and behavior to the Creator's


…With the

giving of the Torah, however, the erection of monuments not only

receded, it disappeared completely, swallowed up by the altar…and it is not

His will that our lives be conditional upon events which overtake us, but

rather that our lives, the good and the bad, all that befalls us, be the result

of our behavior towards Him according to His word and will. Therefore, was the

monument forbidden, and the significance of the altar is: the behavior of man

which realizes the will of God as revealed in His Torah, will transform the

land into a mountain of God, and the fire which burns upon the alter is Eish

Datthe fire of the law which enlightened the

face of the world.

 (K. Goldberg's

translation into English of Prof. Nechama Leibowitz's

Hebrew         translation of RaSHaR

Hirsch's [German] Commentary on the Torah)


Your Brother or Esau? – How Does One Interpret the

Other's Intentions in Unclear Circumstances?

We came to

your brother Esau – of whom you would say, "He is my

brother", but he treats you as the evil Esau, still harboring his hate.

(Rashi Bereishit

32: 7)


We came to

your brother Esau – and you found favor in his eyes, as you had

spoken. And out of joy at your arrival and his love for you, he himself

is coming to you, and there are four hundred men with him, in your honor.

That is the essence of the plain meaning of the verse. And so, too, Even

now he is setting out to meet you, and he will be happy to see you (Shemot 4: 1).

(Rashbam loc cit)



himself is coming to you – out of great joy to welcome you

And there

are four hundred men with him – to do you honor.

(Hizkuni loc cit)


Who is

Responsible: Dinah, Leah, Jacob or Shekhem son

of Hamor?


Dinah, the daughter of Leah, went out – Read this in the

light of what Scripture says: All treasures of the king's daughter's

are kept within. (Tehillim 45:14).

Rabbi Yossi said:

When the woman conceals herself in the house, she is worthy of marrying a high-priest

and shall produce high-priests, for it is said All treasures

(Tanhumah Vayishlah 6)


Now Dinah, the daughter of Leah, went out – Was she not Jacob's

daughter? Scripture associated her with her mother; just as Leah was out-going,

she too was out-going. From where [do we know that Leah was out-going]? For it

is written, Leah went out to meet him (Bereishit 30:16).

(Loc. cit.)


Let my justness testify for me tomorrow (Bereishit 30:33) – Rabbi Yehudah bar

Simon said: It is written, Do not boast

of tomorrow (Mishlei 27:1). You said, Let my

justness testify for me tomorrow, and on the morrow your daughter went out

and was raped, for it is said, Now Dinah, the daughter of Leah, went


(Bereishit Rabbah 73:9)


Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahman said:

Anyone who vows and postpones its fulfillment will eventually come to

worshiping idols, performing illicit sexual acts, shed blood, and malicious

speech. From whom do you learn this? [We learn] all of them from Jacob. By

vowing and postponing the vow's fulfillment, he came to all of these.

Where do we

find idolatry? And Jacob told his household: "remove the alien

gods " (Bereishit 35:2).

Where do we

find illicit sexual acts? By Dinah, for it is said, Now Dinah went out.

Where do we

find bloodshed? For it is said, On the

third day, when they were in pain (34:25).

Where do we

find malicious speech? For it is said, And he

heard the words of Laban's sons (31:1)

(Vayikra Rabbah 37:1)



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