Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND
Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y
is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
Kohen - First Aliya - 10 p'sukim - 32:4-13
SDT Onkeles seems to consider the messengers that Yaakov sent to be human (IZGADIN are runners or messengers); Rashi states that the word MAL'ACHIM is to be taken literally, as heavenly angels. Commentaries point to the end of last week's sedra (which tells of Yaakov's encountering the "camps" of angels upon his return to Eretz Yisrael) as support for Rashi's point of view. Bartenura further explains that Biblical references to angels always include something they said or a prophetic message. When Yaakov encountered the angels, nothing is said. It could be argued, that the Torah mentioned the angels in connection with Yaakov's sending them to Eisav. Other commentaries say that Yaakov sent angels because humans might be affected by Eisav and angels would be able to "read" the situation accurately.
SDT One of Yaakov's statements was that he had been living with Lavan and was delayed until now. Rashi learns, that "he lived with Lavan but did not learn from his evil ways". Some see this as a compliment to Yaakov, that he was able to maintain his complete adherence to the Torah in such an alien atmosphere. Others see an implied criticism: All those years in Lavan's home, and he did not learn form Lavan's evil ways... how to channel the cunning and enthusiasm he witnessed towards his own service of G-d. There are lessons to be learned even by negative example.
Yaakov announces to Eisav that he has "oxen, donkeys, sheep, servants".
SDT Why does Yaakov tell this to Eisav? Is he boasting about wealth that he has amassed in Lavan's house? No, just the opposite. Yaakov is telling Eisav that although he has much material wealth and large flocks and herds, he does not have land. He has not (yet) benefited from the blessing (that Eisav felt should have been his) of "from the dew of the heavens and the fertility of the ground..." Therefore, Yaakov hoped that Eisav would not be angry with him.
Side note: Yaakov is, so far, blessed with the Shehakol type of wealth. The other 5 of the 6 brachot for food are all related to that which comes from the ground, the blessings of TAL HASHA MAYIM & SH'MANEI HA'ARETZ, which Yaakov has not yet received.
The report of Eisav's pending arrival with 400 men prompts Yaakov into three modes of action. He first divides his camp into two, so that one will be able to escape if the other is attacked. Then he prays to G-d for His help and the fulfillment of promises made. (the third phase is in the next portion.)
SDT Commentaries point out that he asks G-d to save him "from my brother - from Eisav". This is not a redundancy. The Jew faces two enemies: The Eisavs of the world who would destroy the Jewish people, and the "friendly brothers" who would gladly permit us to assimilate into their cultures - thereby also bringing about the destruction of the Jewish People. Yaakov prays for salvation from both threats.
Similarly, in the very first pasuk of the sedra, Yaakov sends the angels (or messengers) to his BROTHER EISAV. Yaakov is always aware that Eisav is both, and he must be weary of both persona.
The Beit HaLevi puts it this way. Danger #1 is war. Danger #2 is a treaty with Eisav that can also be disastrous. Does this say anything to us today?
SDT Baal HaTurim points out that there are two p'sukim in the Torah in which every word ends with a "final mem". Here in Vayishlach (32:15): 200 she-goats, 20 he-goats... and BaMidbar (29:33): And their (referring to sacrifices) flour-oil offerings, their wine of libation, for the oxen... Is there a connection? Yaakov sent 550 animals as an appeasement to Eisav, even though G-d had assured him that He would protect him. Yaakov's descendants were destined to offer 550 animals per year as Musaf sacrifices. (The numbers need work, and years differ from one another in number of days, but the final results bear out the Baal HaTurim's remarkable observation.)
He instructs his servants what to say when they meet up with Eisav.
During the night before his encounter with Eisav,
Yaakov finds himself alone. (This is one of the sources for the rule that a
person should not go out alone at night.)
Yaakov battles with a "man" (whom we are taught is the guardian angel of Eisav). Yaakov prevails in this struggle but is injured. He receives an unusual blessing from the angel in the form of an additional name - Yisrael.
SDT Yaakov asks the angel who has wrestled with him to give him a bracha. Rashi says that he was asking that the angel acknowledge the brachot that Yaakov had received from Yitzchak, which Yitzchak had intended to give to Eisav. Perhaps what prompts Rashi to this explanation rather than the situation being simply that Yaakov was asking for a new bracha, is the unusual word BEIRACHTANI (which relates to the past) and not BOR'CHEINI (bless me now).
Note that the angel does not declare that Yaakov will no longer be his name, but rather Yisrael. He does say that it will no longer be said that he is a "Yaakov" (one who holds onto his brother's heel to hold him back) but rather he will referred to as Yisrael, the one who prevailed before G-d and man. Unlike Avraham, whose previous name is no longer used after he is renamed Avraham, Yaakov carries both names. In fact, the second word after the angel's declaration of the new name is Yaakov. Similarly, when G-d confirms the name Yisrael upon Yaakov, he (Yaakov) is still called Yaakov, and sometimes Yisrael. This is the flavor of Rashi's commentary on LO YAAKOV, which he explains thus: People will no longer call you "the one who held your brother back", but they will acknowledge you as having justly prevailed.
Removal of the "gid" and its innervating branches
in the thigh and leg of the animal, as well as the fats and flesh in the
area, is required, and difficult. Further problems result from blood vessels
that must be removed from that part of the animal's body. The process of
removal of the GID and other vessels is known as "Nikur" or "treibering". It
is, in most cases, not economically feasible to remove the "gid". The whole
hind section of the animal is generally sold as non-kosher( thereby removing
the GID from the rest of the cow’s body). This is the standard practice in
the U.S. In Israel, however, where there is not a so readily available
non-kosher market, nikur is done. This means that some fancy hind cuts of
meat are available to the kosher consumer. (Tenderloin, sirloin,
SDT Mishlei 24:16 says: For a righteous person will fall seven times and rise up... Baal HaTurim relates this pasuk to Yaakov's bowing 7 times before Eisav.
Finally, Yaakov and Eisav - brothers, twins! - are face to face, and Eisav runs towards Yaakov and embraces him, hugs him, and kisses him. Asterisks on the word VAYISHAKEIHU. The Scribal custom is calling our attention to something important. A message we dare not overlook or ignore. Rashi tells us that our Sages in a Midrashic B’raita debate the message of the six dots written above the word. Some explain the dots by saying that the kiss was not sincere. Eisav still resented (hated) Yaakov, and absence did NOT make the heart grow fonder. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai disagrees. But he does not take the opposite point of view. Not exactly. He says (as Rashi quotes him) that it is a well-known truism (a halacha, in the wording of Rashi) that Eisav (and his descendants, and his spiritual heirs) hates Yaakov. Fact of Life. At this moment of their reunion after so many years of separation, says R’ Shimon b. Yochai, Eisav was overwhelmed with brotherly feelings and he kissed Yaakov “with all his heart”.
That’s nice. It really is. But Eisav still hates
Yaakov. And the descendants of Eisav still hate the children of Yaakov. And
other people throughout the generations, up to and including today, and
probably for a couple of tomorrows as well, still hate the Jewish People.
And even when they are pressured and blackmailed into condemning terrorist
acts, they proclaim that such acts are not in THEIR best interest, but do
not condemn terror out of a desire for peace with Israel. (Just an example.)
SDT Why did Yaakov hide Dina from Eisav? Some explain that Yaakov did not want Eisav to take Dina as a wife and thereby subject her to his wickedness. For this, Yaakov was punished, because Dina might have been (probably?) a positive influence in Eisav's life. (The very next portion of the Torah tells us of the kidnap and rape of Dina and the subsequent debacle of the revenge exacted by Shimon and Levi.) Commentaries ask whether Yaakov should be praised, rather than punished, for protecting Dina. Bartenura says that Yaakov's reason for hiding Dina was not the fear of anything negative happening to her, but the fear that she would succeed in reforming Eisav, which would make him worthy of the blessing that he would dominate his brother.
Eisav asks about the groups of animals that he met on his way. Eisav at first refuses to accept the gifts, but eventually takes them. Then Eisav suggests that he and Yaakov join together. Yaakov adamantly refuses.
NOTE: At first, Yaakov seems to want to avoid antagonizing Eisav, even to the point of humbling himself before his brother. However, when the possibility of subjecting his family to the influences of Eisav is at issue, Yaakov boldly risks confrontation. Lesson to learn.
[S> 33:18 (3)] Yaakov travels to the Sh'chem area where he purchases land and builds a Mizbei'ach.
The land that Yaakov purchased was later used for the burial of Yosef's remains.
[S> 34:1 (31)] Dina (who had been hidden from Eisav) now goes out to explore the "local attractions". She is kidnapped and raped by Sh'chem who then falls in love with her. His father proposes an alliance with Yaakov's family for the purpose of intermarriage and fusing of their cultures. Shimon and Levi trick Sh'chem and his people into circumcising themselves. When the people are weakened, Shimon and Levi kill them to avenge what was done to Dina. Yaakov is upset at what they have done (perhaps not - some commentaries say he was upset at not being consulted in the first place), but they defend their actions.
[P> 35:1 (8)] G-d tells Yaakov to move to Beit-El and build an altar there. Yaakov rids his household of idols. G-d prevents the locals from pursuing Yaakov and family to avenge the killing of the people of Sh'chem.
Rivka's nurse Devora dies and is buried. (There is a Tradition that Rivka died at this point too. Some suggest that the Torah was silent about Rivka’s death because Yaakov was not around to tend to her burial, only Eisav was.)
[P> 35:9 (14)] G-d appears once again to Yaakov and blesses him. He confirms the new name Yisrael (which is used alongside the name Yaakov, each having different connotations).
Reuven "commits an indiscretion" with Bilha...
SDT The Gemara states: Anyone who thinks that Reuven actually slept with Bilha, as the literal translation of the pasuk would indicate, is grossly mistaken. Some say that Reuven moved Yaakov's bed from the tent of Bilha - where Yaakov had placed it after Rachel's death - into his mother's (Leah's) tent. The Torah's cryptic description of what he did is considered a sharp rebuke of his actions, which were disrespectful to his father. Nonetheless, he was motivated by protective jealousy for his mother Leah. The Mishna states that when the Torah was translated into Aramaic during public Torah reading, this pasuk was not translated. It was read, but it was left without TIRGUM so as not to mislead and confuse the people. This is a glaring example (of which there are many more, as well as more subtle ones) of the inability to understand the Written Word without its inseparable partner, the Oral Torah. This is so for "story" parts of the Torah, as well as Halachic texts. This is the tragedy of the translation of the Written Torah into other languages. This is the tragedy of the nations of the world clutching their bibles and thinking that they hold in their hands the Word of G-d. They hold only part of the Word of G-d which is so easily misunderstood and perverted in the absence of its Oral part.
[P> 35:23 (7)] ...the sons of Yaakov are 12.
SDT This statement is part of the same pasuk (although it begins a new parsha) as the statement about Reuven's deed. This is considered proof of the Talmudic statement mentioned above. Had Reuven actually sinned, he would not immediately be acknowledged as one of the sons of Yaakov, he would have been ostracized, or worse. Additionally, he is identified as Yaakov's B'CHOR in the very next pasuk.
Yaakov's sons are enumerated. Yaakov returns to his father's home. Yitzchak dies at 180 and is buried by Yaakov and Eisav.
[P> 36:1 (19)] Eisav's descendants are enumerated.
The fact that this is done at this point in the Torah, before the Torah continues with the accounts of the family of Yaakov seems to say: Let's finish up with Eisav first, before we continue with the important line of descent. Eisav is a force in this world, but he is not the reason for its existence. I (says the Torah, so to speak) am not yet ready to continue telling about Israel; I'll get to it after this business is out of the way.
Another reason offered for the detailed presentation of Eisav's lineage is a rebuke of sorts for Yaakov's humbling himself before Eisav. Call him your master and you his servant, says G-d (so to speak), then I will establish him and his line of royalty in their own land many years before you and your descendants are ready for nationhood and their own kings.
[P> 36:31 (13)] Finally, the Torah enumerates the
kings that ruled the city-states of Eisav/Edom/Se'ir, "even before there
ruled a king in Israel". Israel must still go through many stages of
refinement and pass through many trials and tribulations before they are to
emerge as The People of Israel.