Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach - 5760 Yaakov; Man of Peace
In this weeks Parshah, Yaakov is forced to confront his brother Esav, who has been pursuing him with a large armed force. "CHAZAL," the Sages of the Talmud and Midrash, of Blessed Memory, teach us that Yaakov prepared for this confrontation in three ways: by "Doron," Gifts, "Tefila," Prayer and "Milchama," War. His last option is war, because fundamentally, Yaakov is a man of peace. The Torah describes Yaakov as a young man as a "Yoshev Ohalim," one who dwells in tents, immersed in learning, as opposed to his brother, who was an "ish sadeh," a man of the field," "rough and ready" for a fight at all times. And this is not because Yaakov is phsically weak, as we saw him at the well with Rachel last week, when he flipped off the stone from the well as if it were a ping-pong ball!
We see his peaceful, approaching pacifist, tendency elsewhere, as well. When Shimon and Levi defend the honor of their sister, Deenah, by taking violent revenge against the people of Shechem, Yaakovs initial reaction is "achartem osi, le-havisheni be-yoshev ha-aretz" "You disgraced me; to give me a foul odor among the people of the Land" (Bereshit 34:30) "You have changed our sweet fragrance, our reputation as a peace-loving People, to the foul smell of a bloodthirsty band!"
And, upon his death-bed, when he analyzes the character and predicts the destiny of his sons, he chastises Shimon and Levi for their initiation of the violence against Yoseph and against the People of Shechem, "Let my spirit not take part in their meetings; let my soul not join in their congregations, for in their wrath they killed a man (referring to Shechem), and in their uncontrolled willfulness, they (attempted to) uproot (Yoseph, who is called) an ox. "
The Torah is on the side of peace. The verse says, "vechol banayich limudei Hashem," "And all your children will be learned in the wisdom of Hashem (the Torah)." The Midrash says ,"Dont read the word as banayich, your children, but rather bonayich, your builders, those who build you and your world; The ones who are learned in the Torah are the true builders of the world, the true peace-makers. " A second verse is cited in order to invoke the blessing of peace upon G-ds People "May Hashem Who gives strength to His People also bless His People with peace."
Both verses cited, it turns out, appear in a Noach/Great Flood context. The earlier "passuk" follows a reference to the "the waters of Noach," where Hashem says that just as the world will never again be destroyed by water, so has He made an oath that His special love will never depart from the Jewish People. The second verse reads, "Hashem sat in Judgment at the Flood; And Hashem sat (on His Throne), King, Forever; May Hashem Who gives strength to His People, also grant Peace to His People."
The connection with Noach seems to be that Noach, the "Tzadik Tamim," "the perfectly righteous person," seems also to have been a "Talmid Chacham," a Torah scholar. RASHI deduces this from the fact that Noach was required to differentiate between the "clean" and the "unclean" animals. In order to do that, he must have learned Torah. Noach the Talmid Chacham is the one selected by G-d to rebuild the world because only he, as a Torah Scholar, could be expected to have the perspective to function in a world-building role.
A Name of G-d is "Shalom," "Peace," and that is why that word means in Hebrew, the Holy Language, in addition to "peace" - also "hello" and "goodbye." And that is why the characteristic greeting of a Jew to another Jew or to any other person is "Shalom Aleichem," "May Peace be upon you!" G-d is the "Oseh Shalom Bimeromav," "the One Who makes peace in His heights." Hashem is the One Who is called the Reconciler of Opposites, the One Who says (Yeshayahu 45:7) "the One Who fashions light, and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates evil; I am the L-rd, Who makes all these," giving the human being the opportunity to exercise "bechirah chofshit," free will, while he or she lives.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU