Parshas Vayishlach–A Message for Today from Our Father Jacob


To many people, the events that we read about in the Torah are just charming Bible stories, but that is the farthest thing from the truth.

Every occurrence, every word in the Torah is a message for us, today. It is written, Ma`aseh avot, siman l`banim”— “Whatever happened to our forefathers, is a sign for us, their children” Indeed, it`s the blueprint of the future, so if we wish to understand our contemporary world, and know how we may best respond to the many challenges that confront us, we need only delve into the parsha.

Jacob was the patriarch who presaged the exile. The pain, the suffering that we have endured throughout the millennia in all the lands of our dispersion was all experienced by him. Jacob taught us how to respond to the terror of the night when we are overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness and fear. It was not by coincidence that Jacob was the creator of the ma`ariv (night) prayer. He showed us how to illuminate the darkness with words that emanate from our hearts. He taught us that even in the most difficult moments, when all appears to be lost, we are never to give up, but must turn to G-d in prayer.

The patriarch Jacob, not only prayed for himself, but for us, who followed him thousands of generations later. When Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, he also saw the inquisitions, the pogroms, the Holocaust, our present confrontation with terror and he begged for mercy. G-d heard his prayers, and promised that we, his children, the Jewish people, would forever survive. “Hashem will answer you on the day of misfortune; The Name of the G-d of Jacob will strengthen you.” (Psalms 20)

In this week`s parsha, it is written that upon confronting Esau, Jacob cried out, “Rescue me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau…” (Genesis, 32:12) Our Rabbis are perplexed as to the meaning of these two hands, and the meaning of “my brother Esau”. After all, Jacob had no other brother. Our sages explain that the patriarch is teaching us a lesson for survival.

Esau will confront us in two different guises: There are times when he will attack us with the ruthless hand of oppression, and there are times when he will extend to us the hand of a brother in friendship, and in doing so, will attempt to destroy us through assimilation. Esau greets Jacob with a kiss, but the word “kiss” is dotted, teaching us that the kiss was really a bite. Genesis 3:4. While we must be vigilant in regard to both hands, Jacob feared the hand of friendship more, for when that hand is outstretched, we are taken unawares, and can, G-d forbid, lose our identity, our heritage, our very Jewishness.

The hand of friendship makes it very easy to forget that we stood at Sinai and are bound by a covenant. So let us treasure the awesomeness of our survival and protect our Judaism, our Torah, with vigilance and love for that is our only solution in this time of darkness.



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