Wednesday, January 14, 2015

454 - Vayishlach

If we were to give a title to this week's parsha, we might call it, "The Guide to Galus." The Ramban (Bereishis 33, 15) writes that Chazal knew through oral transmission that Vayishlach is the parsha of Galus. Thus, every time Rebbi Yannai would travel to Rome to petition the government concerning communal matters, he would first study this parsha. The Torah's description of Yaakov's interaction with Eisav gives us numerous guidelines regarding the way we are to relate to the gentile nations.

As Rashi explains, Yaakov prepared for his encounter with Eisav in three ways. He made an attempt to appease Eisav by sending a generous gift, he prepared for war, and as one must always do along with anyhishtadlus, he offered a prayer to Hashem. Rav Wolbe says (Shiurei Chumash, Parshas Vayishlach 32:4, 9; 33:4, 15) that throughout the generations Klal Yisrael have used monetary pacification as a means of warding off harsh decrees and combating the negative intentions of our enemies. 

Moreover, we find an even greater level of subservience on Yaakov's part, when he finally met Eisav. Eisav ran toward Yaakov and hugged and kissed him. The Seforno tells us exactly what caused Eisav's change of heart: "His feelings changed instantly when he perceived Yaakov's submission. Had the rabble-rousers who lived in the times of the second Bais Hamikdosh acted in similar fashion, the Bais Hamikdosh would not have been destroyed!" It is not easy for a person to lower himself before others, but there is simply no other way to deal with the other nations. Rebelling against them is not in line withthe Torah's dictates. 

As Jews, we have always had to "apologize" to the other nations for being the "Chosen Nation." The realization that Hashem chose us from among all the other nations of the world requires us to appease those who did not merit this designation. This is an idea which really applies to all interpersonal relationships. If someone from a group of friends was appointed to a position of prominence, whenever he finds himself amongst his friends, he should appease them by demonstrating his deference to them.

Yet, despite the presents and displays of submission, when Eisav offered his assistance Yaakov flatly refused. Just before Eisav departed from Yaakov he offered to have some of his henchmen join Yaakov. Yaakov replied, "Why should I find favor in the eyes of my master." The Ramban explains that Yaakov declined since he had no interest whatsoever in them or in their culture. While the child of an American who moves to France will almost indefinitely become part and parcel of the French culture, a Jew must be careful of such a phenomenon. Even when the non-Jews extend a friendly hand as Eisav did, we must decline their assistance and goodwill. Our desire is to live in solitude. Non-Jews certainly have what to offer, but Judaism offers so much more.

When the Ba'al Ha'Tanya returned from a trip to Petersburg he told his Chassidim that Eisav did not fool himself; this world has many beautiful cities and attractions. Nevertheless, Yiddishkeit has so much more to offer. Appreciate being a member of the Creator's handpicked nation, and do not forget to show deference to those who have not merited that appellation!

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