Category Archives: Parshas Vayishlach

Parshas Vayishlach: It’s Time To Smell The Coffee!

Parshas Vayishlach

It’s Time To Smell The Coffee!

“Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav.” (Bereishis 32:12)

After many years of staying with Lavan, Yaakov was finally preparing to return home. He heard that Esav was coming to “greet” him together with an army of 400 men. Yaakov was concerned.  He davened to Hashem. “Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav.” (Bereishis 32:12)


The commentaries are bothered by the apparent redundancy in Yaakov’s prayer to Hashem.  Yaakov only had one brother. It was obvious that he was asking Hashem to save him from Esav. Why did he feel it necessary to add, please save me from my brother, from Esav?


Rashi answers that Yaakov was asking Hashem to save him from the hands of his brother who was not acting as a brother should. Rather, he was acting wickedly.


The Beis HaLevi gives another answer. He says that after hearing that Esav was on his way to meet him, Yaakov understood that Esav had one of two intentions. Either Esav wanted to fight against Yaakov, intending to kill him. Or Esav wanted to make peace and live together in harmony. Yaakov feared both possibilities! Obviously, Yaakov did not want Esav to kill him. However, he was also afraid that Esav would show him brotherly love and befriend him.


In fact, Yaakov’s first prayer was to be saved from “my brother”. Only then did he ask Hashem to be saved from “Esav”. The Bais HaLevi explains that Yaakov was even MORE afraid of the danger of living in harmony with the evil Esav, than the danger of being killed by Esav!! Had Esav attempted to kill Yaakov, that would have been a physical assault. Living in peace with Esav would constitute a spiritual assault. Yaakov was very concerned, lest he be influenced by Esav’s evil deeds, even to a small extent.


As the parsha unfolds, we see that Hashem accepted both aspects of Yaakov’s tefillah. Esav had intended to kill Yaakov. Hashem caused Esav to change his mind, thus saving Yaakov’s life. After Yaakov had appeased Esav with a large gift, Esav wanted to spend time with Yaakov and travel together with him. Hashem also saved Yaakov from being with Esav for even 1 full day; Esav accepted Yaakov’s refusal to go with him.

Yaakov’s experience with Esav portends to the experiences of the Jewish People at the hands of Esav’s descendants, the Roman Empire and the Western World.

First, they try to destroy us by intense persecution, symbolizing the “evil Esav”. They make harsh decrees, attempt to forcibly convert, torture, and kill us. Hashem does not permit them to annihilate us. When Esav’s descendants realize that this method does not work, they try a different approach. They behave like “my brother Esav”, showering us with friendship and brotherhood. They express a desire to live in peace and harmony with us, promoting close associations with us. Although their faces show friendship, their hearts still harbor hate. Their goal remains the same. They want to weaken our attachment to Torah. Yaakov feared this second approach, more so. Since it is disguised as friendship, it is less likely to be met with resistance. Therefore, it is more dangerous to us.

Currently, we are experiencing the face of “my brother”, Esav. There are numerous, “friendly” attacks on us, looking to distance us from the Torah. Even if we remain steadfast and loyal to the Torah, we are still in danger. There are so many subtle influences that can have an impact on a Torah Jew, without our even realizing it. There are influences of advertisements and commercials, the media, as well as proximity to co-workers with different values and goals in life. We are influenced as to what to read, how to dress, where to go on vacations, and how to spend our leisure time.

We are influenced by our environment. Sometimes the influence is so subtle that we gradually change without realizing. May Hashem always help us realize that we are different, with higher goals and values. May Hashem save us from the “evil Esav”. May Hashem also insulate us from the face of “my brother Esav”, who constantly tries to distance us from Hashem and from the Torah.


Parshas Vayishlach: Please Don’t Hand Me Those Animals!

Parshas Vayishlach

Please Don’t Hand Me Those Animals!


“…And he [Yaakov] prepared from whatever came into his hand for a gift for his brother Esav” (Bereishis 32:14)

Many years ago, Dr. Nachman Kook practiced medicine in Yerushalayim. Since he did not have a receptionist, his patients would sit down and wait to be called. When the doctor asked who was next, that person would stand up and go into the examination room. Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron yeshiva, was the one exception to the rule. Rabbi Sarna’s medical condition required him to regularly see Dr. Kook. With great respect for this Torah luminary, whenever Rabbi Sarna came, Dr. Kook called him to be seen next. Once, Rabbi Sarna was sitting in the waiting room when Dr. Kook came out. Expecting to be next, as usual, Rabbi Sarna got up from his seat and headed to the examination room. Dr. Kook apologized to Rabbi Sarna and said that he had to first see a lady who had already been waiting. When Dr. Kook finished examining the elderly lady, he called in Rabbi Sarna. Dr. Kook explained to Rabbi Sarna why he did not call him in right away, as he was accustomed to do. He explained that the elderly lady was poor, and he did not charge her for her examination. Dr. Kook was concerned that if he took Rabbi Sarna ahead of her, she may have thought that priority treatment was being given to those patients who paid. She may have felt badly that as a non-paying patient, she wasn’t getting the same attention as the paying patients. That’s why the doctor took her right away. (In the footsteps of the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach Krohn)  Dr. Kook thought the situation through and showed such sensitivity to the elderly lady.

After being away for many years, our forefather Yaakov was finally returning home to the land of Israel. Yaakov sent messengers to Esav to find out if Esav still harbored a murderous hatred towards him for receiving Yitzchak’s blessings. The messengers returned to Yaakov saying that Esav was coming to “greet” Yaakov, together with 400 men. The Kli Yakar says that Esav was coming with an army to fight Yaakov. Yaakov realized that he was in a dangerous situation. Rashi says that Yaakov prepared for the upcoming encounter in 3 ways. He prepared for a possible battle, he prayed to Hashem, and he prepared a gift to appease Esav.

If Esav would be appeased by Yaakov’s gift, then war would be averted. Obviously, the type of gift was of utmost importance. Yaakov sent Esav a very generous gift of over 500 animals! Yaakov told his servants to space the animals in such a way, as to magnify the appearance of the many animals that he was sending.

Since the purpose of this magnificent gift was to appease Esav, we would think that Yaakov would have chosen the best and finest quality animals. Yet, surprisingly, that was not the case. The Torah tells us (Bereishis 32:14) that Yaakov took whichever animals came into his hand. That means that among the animals, Yaakov may have sent animals that were sickly or blemished. How could Yaakov do such a thing?

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l (in sefer Chofetz Chaim on the Torah) explains that Yaakov did not feel it was proper for him to actively choose which specific animals to send to Esav. Those animals that had belonged to Yaakov would now be going to the rasha, Esav. Yaakov did not want to be directly involved in choosing the animals since that would have caused some measure of suffering to them.

Yaakov had learned about this sensitivity from an event that had occured to himself many years earlier. When he left home to travel to the house of Besuel and Lavan, Yaakov stopped in Bethel. He prepared to spend the night outside, in the open. Rashi (Bereishis 28:11) says that Yaakov took 12 stones to encircle his head like a cape, to protect himself from wild animals. The stones “quarreled” with one another, vying for the privilege of being the stone that the tzadik, Yaakov rested his head upon. Immediately, Hashem fused the 12 stones into 1 large stone so that Yaakov was resting his head on all the stones, which were now 1 stone. From this, Yaakov understood that even an inanimate object, such as a stone, had the urge to draw close to holiness. If that was the case then certainly, animals, who are living creatures, feel the need to be attached to holiness and not to wickedness. Therefore, Yaakov understood that the animals which would be sent to Esav, would undergo a measure of suffering.

Yaakov had to send the animals. However, he limited his hands-on involvement by not actively choosing which animals to send. Yaakov’s gift had potential life-saving repercussions and it seemed important to send only the finest animals to Esav. However, Yaakov’s sensitivity determined that he had to take that chance. It would not have been appropriate otherwise.

This is such a meaningful lesson for us. We must be so sensitive to the feelings of others

so as not to cause them to suffer. We must be so careful even if that means

that an action which we want to do will not be as effective.