Parshat Vayishlach

A Student Publication of Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Vayishlach            18 Kislev 5763             November 23, 2002              Vol.12 No. 7

In This Issue:

David Gertler
Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
David Glassberg
Halacha of the Week
Rabbi Howard Jachter

This week’s issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by
Rabbi Joel Grossman in honor of his son Tzvi's Bar Mitzvah

Mamma's [Rejected] Boy
by David Gertler
David is a former Kol Torah editor-in-chief studying at Yeshivat Ohr Hadarom.

"And Reuven went and he laid (with) Bilhah, the concubine of his father." (Bereishit 35:22)
The Gemara in Shabbat (55b) explains that Reuven did not sleep with Bilhah, he only switched around the beds.  The Gemara explains that it was because of this action that the tribe of Reuven later stood on Har Eval (the mountain for curse, see Devarim 27:13).  The Gemara brings proof of this from the Pasuk "Cursed is he who sleeps with his father's wife" (Devarim 27:20) which is in close proximity to the mention of Reuven standing on Har Eval.  The Gemara goes explains further that the reason that Reuven moved the beds was to protect his mother's honor.  Let us attempt to understand who Revuen was, what led him to move the beds, and how he changed afterwards.
We are introduced to Reuven when we are told the occasion of his birth: "Because God saw in my [Leah's] suffering, that now my husband shall be caused to love me" (Bereishit 29:32).  The purpose of Reuven's birth is indicated in two ways.  The instinctual purpose is as a reminder of suffering, while the effectual outcome should be causing a love that is to be brought from the husband to the wife.
The first active role that Reuven takes in Chumash is bringing the Dudaim to his mother.  We are told twice that Leah stopped bearing (29:35; 30:9), and the second child of Bilhah is named in a way that insults Leah "I have fought with my sister and I was able [to be victorious]" (30:8).  In addition, if we look at the fight between Rachel and Leah, it is clear that Rachel acknowledges that Leah is suffering from lack of love.  It is specifically for that reason that Rachel allows Leah to sleep with Yaakov.  Here it is clear that it is an issue of suffering which then brings Yaakov to love her.  And it is Reuven that facilitates that love.
Here, as well, as we described above, Reuven is standing up for his mother's honor.  The Gemara explains that Reuven understood that it was because of Rachel that his mother was not loved.  However, after Rachel died he would not be able to accept that his mother's suffering comes about by way of a concubine.  He therefore moved the bed, once again enabling his mother to be loved by Yaakov.
It was apparent to Reuven that because of his actions he had been separated from his father's love.  It is for this reason that during the selling of Yosef, Reuven attempted to regain his father's favor by saving Yosef.  However, Reuven was also looking for acceptance from his brothers, as they had lost respect for him after hearing about Reuven switching the beds.  Both the above considerations made Reuven try to find a middle ground Yaakov's blessing to Reuven indicates that Yaakov did not approve of Reuven's methods.  The characteristic of being "Pachaz Kamayim” – “unstable as water" (59:3) indicates that Reuven will intervene wherever he is able to, just as water flows to any spot that is open to it.  This relates to us as Reuven did not know when it was appropriate for him to intervene and to what extent.  
It is because of these events that Reuven as a tribe struggles to find acceptance, and they often finds themselves being afflicted.  All the primary events of Reuven: his involvement in the Korach rebellion (Bamidbar 16), his request to settle Ever Leyarden (Bamidbar 32), and his building an altar as a way of connecting to Am Yisrael (Yehoshua 22) were all ways of looking to recover from having moved the beds, and now looking for a new way to gain recognition and love from Am Yisrael.
Between his brothers and his father, and because a true compromise could not be reached with his brothers, he lost the opportunity to be loved by his father.  However, we see that he tried to make it up by later offering his two sons as a collateral for Binyamin when Reuven took him down to Mitzrayim (42:37).  All this suggests that after the incident of the moving of the bed, Reuven became more sensitive to his father's and his mother’s love, and did what he could to save his father from any suffering.

The Grandeur of Rome?
by Andy Feuerstein-Rudin

This week’s Haftorah is the entire Sefer Ovadia, detailing everything Ovadia did.  In the first Pasuk of this week’s Haftorah we see a vision that Ovadia had.  “So says Hashem Elokim concerning Edom:” Other prophets, who received predictions concerning Edom, such as Yirmiyahu, Yeshayahu and Amos have heard a message from Hashem that many nations will decide to go to war against Edom.  An ambassador will be sent around among the nations and will inform them all “Arise and we too will arise to wage war against her!”
Hashem will then inspire the nations to attack Edom.  The word “Edom” can be explained in two different ways:  Rome, or all the nations that are descendents of Esav.  To understand this Pasuk we will analyze the last two definitions.  The second Pasuk in the Haftorah says,  “Behold, I made you small among the nations; you are very despised.”  The question then is how does the explanation of this Pasuk tie into the definition of “Edom” as Rome?
The Chachamim explain that Rome lacked the important characteristics to classify it as a distinguished nation.  Its language is not considered significant by the Chachamim and succession to the throne was not hereditary.  In Hashem’s eyes, the Roman Empire was inconsequential.  Hashem said concerning Yitzchak’s son Esav that “I know that your parents found you strong and important and Hashem responded that I find you inconsequential and I am not impressed by your strength.”  The Chachamim show us this with a parable:
There was once a lady whose son wished to enlist in the military, but his application was rejected.  She went to the headquarters to complain, because she could not understand why her son was not accepted.  The captain then asked “Who is your son?”  The mother then gave her son’s name and added “He is brave and strong.”  The commander replied that “He may be strong in your eyes, but all I detected was weakness and cowardice.”
Similarly, Yitzchak’s son Esav was like nothing in Hashem’s eyes.  The same can be said about the Roman Empire.  Its impressive external appearance was merely a façade for corruption.  From the Pasuk where Hashem says, “In my eyes you are small and lowly” we can understand this very important lesson, regarding our current enemies.  

Vein of Pain
by David Glassberg

One of the three Mitzvot in Sefer Bereishit is the prohibition against eating and deriving benefit from the sinew of the thigh-vein, the Gid Hanashe.  This Mitzva, found in this week’s Parsha is seemingly observed due to the fight that occurs between Yaakov and the angel of Esav.  In Perek 31 Pasuk 33 the Torah states: Al Cain Lo Yochlu Bnai Yisrael Et Gid Hanasheh Asher Al Kaf Hayerech Ad Hayom Hazeh Ki Nagah Bichaf Yerech Yaakov BeGid Hanasheh,” Therefore the Children of Israel are not to eat the displaced sinew on the hip socket to this day, because he struck Jacobs hip socket on the displaced sinew.  If this is the reason, however, it is very difficult to understand why just because Yaakov got into a fight and his thigh was injured, all future generations of the Jewish people cannot eat the Gid Hanashe?  How does this fight relate to us today? 
The Sefer Hachinuch offers an insight into the Mitzva and why it still pertains to us even today.  He first writes that the reason we do this Mitzva is not because of this fight between Yaakov and the angel of Esav.  The words “do not eat” are not stated merely by way of narrative; they are rather, like the Gemara in Chullin says, a commandment from God given at Har Sinai.  They are placed here simply to shed light on the reason the Mitzva was given.  This explains why we actually perform the Mitzva: because God said so.  But what is the root or the idea behind this seemingly strange Mitzva?  The Sefer Hachinuch continues to suggest that this Mitzva is an assurance that even though the Jewish people endure constant troubles from the descendants of Esav, we will persevere and the descendants of Esav will fall.  Remembering this Mitzva, and performing it, gives us a guarantee that Mashiach will one day come to redeem the Jewish people.  This Mitzva should serve as a reminder that we should stand firm in our faith forever and eventually the Mashiach will come and rid us of this suffering.  
We find in the Midrash that Yaakov fought with and was injured by Esav’s guardian angel.  This angel wanted to obliterate Yaakov and his descendants; unable to do so, he pained Yaakov and injured his thigh.  While the descendants of Esav wish to destroy us, they cannot; therefore they inflict pain and suffering upon us.  Nevertheless, the Jewish people should not be discouraged.  For just as when Yaakov was injured Vehu Tzoleah Al Yiraicho, And he was limping on his hip (Perek 33 Pasuk 32) and as the Midrash Rabba states that the sun shone one him to heal him, so too the light of Mashiach will shine upon the Jewish people and relieve them of the troubles they face at the hands of the descendants of Esav.  One can clearly see how relevant this commandment is for us today.  It should be the will of Hashem that the observance of this Mitzva should speed up the coming of Mashiach where the descendants of Esav will no longer torment the Jewish people and there will be Shalom Al Yisrael.


Halacha of the Week
The Mishna Brurah (8:26) urges men to wear their Tzitzit “out.”  See Teshuvot Yechave Daat (2:1) and Teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer (8:3) for a review and discussion of the differing opinions on this issue.  A man might consider wearing his Tzitzit “out” as an effective means to help resist the seductive influence of the surrounding culture (see Menachot 44a).


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