Parshat Vayishlach   Vol.11 No.11

Date of issue: 16 Kislev 5762   -- December 1, 2001

This week’s issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by Jeffrey and Shelley Steiner in honor of their son Ian's Bar Mitzvah

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This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Joel Grossman
Yair Manas
Ilan Tokayer
Halacha of the Week
 Food for Thought
-by David Gertler
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-Bullfighting and Visiting a Zoo


The Message of the Drunk
by Rabbi Joel Grossman

In the beginning of Parshat Vayishlach, Yaakov sent messengers to his brother Esav and told him "I lived with Lavan". Rashi interprets, “I lived with Lavan and kept the 613 Mitzvot, I did not learn from his bad deeds.” Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser in his Sefer Something To Say quotes the Chafetz Chaim who explains this statement of Yaakov as critical. When Lavan did something improper, he did it with much enthusiasm and energy. Yaakov was saying that his goal in the pursuit of good deeds did not compare to how Lavan felt in doing evil. He says of himself: “although I lived with Lavan and observed all 613 commandments, I am upset that I did not copy Lavan’s enthusiasm.”

In Pirkei Avot 4:1 the Mishna asks, “Who is a wise person?” The Mishna answers, “someone who learns from all people.” Some Mifarshim ask, is it true that we can learn from everyone? What can we learn from the town drunk? They answer that we can learn how not to act. With this comment of the Chafetz Chaim we can learn another idea. We can learn from the town drunk who goes to the bar with great feeling that we, too, we should run to Shul, Beit Midrash and to do Mitzvot with that same fervor.

In Israel we hear about Arab suicide bombers and here in America on September 11 we experienced our own terrible taste of terrorism. Many young Arab men are convinced to kill others and in the process themselves for their cause. If we want to be known as Chachamim, we should learn their zeal and apply it to the way we perform the Mitzvot. We should not do Mitzvot only when it is comfortable for us. Rather, we should experience true Miserat Nefesh and live our lives as true Torah observant Jews.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l in his Darash Moshe explains the message of Yaakov to Esav in the following manner. The phrase 'Im Lavan Garti' seems to imply that the offer of Yaakov to Esav of peace was conditional. Esav was to understand that Yaakov planned to observe the Mitzvot under any circumstances. If Esav was willing to make peace under those terms, good; if Esav insisted on joining the two families together to effect the children of Yaakov with wicked ways then there was no point in discussing peace.

We as the Bnai Yaakov must learn this message well. We should never compromise Shemirat Hamitzvot under any situation and other people should know we are totally committed to Hashem and His Torah. If we can do that and learn from the “Lavans” of our time we will serve Hashem in a perfect way and hopefully be able to usher in the age of Mashiach.

Positive Influence
by Yair Manas

There are a number of lessons that Yaakov teaches us in this Parsha. The Torah tells us that when Yaakov heard that Esav was heading towards him, Yaakov became afraid. At first glance, this seems hard to comprehend, as Hashem promised Yaakov protection wherever he went. Did Yaakov doubt Hashem’s guarantee? Obviously Yaakov had unwavering belief (Emuna) in Hashem. Rather Yaakov doubted himself. He understood that Hashem’s promise was only under the condition that Yaakov remains meritorious to deserve this promise. Yaakov was concerned that he was not worthy of Hashem’s aid. This demonstrates Yaakov’s humility.

When Yaakov learned that Esav was approaching, Yaakov prepared to meet Esav in three ways. He prepared a gift to appease Esav, a prayer that Hashem should help him, and he prepared for war. Yaakov knew that man should make his own fight for survival and not rely solely on miracles. When problems arise, one should first try to solve them peacefully, as seen when Yaakov sent presents to Esav. At the same time, prayer is an essential aid during times of crisis. Finally, one should always prepare for the worst-case scenario, as seen when Yaakov prepares for war.

After the reunion between Yaakov and Esav, Esav urges Yaakov to stay and accompany him. Yaakov knew that it would be best to avoid his brother’s negative influence, so he declines the offer. This teaches a valuable lesson. One should always surround himself with a good Chevra, a good crowd, thus diminishing his chances of acting in a way that would make a Chillul Hashem, a desecration of Hashem’s name. When one is surrounded with a good Chevra, a great Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of Hashem’s name, can be made.

Thus Yaakov teaches us many valuable lessons in this week’s Parsha. He teaches us to be humble, he teaches us to try to solve our problems peacefully while at the same time prepare for the worst. He teaches us that prayer is an integral part of life, and he teaches us that one should hang around positive influences. If one can live by these attributes, one will become a better person and hopefully merit his share of the World to Come.

The Power of Eretz Yisrael

by Ilan Tokayer

'Vayera Yaakov Miod Vayatzar Lo'
“And Yaakov became very frightened, and it distressed him.”

In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Yaakov hears that Esav is coming to greet him, and not knowing if this is for good or bad, Yaakov is afraid. How could Yaakov be afraid if Hashem just promised him that he would be protected? Rashi quotes Bereishit Rabbah, which explains that Yaakov was afraid of Esav because Esav had the Zechut (merit) of living in Eretz Yisrael while Yaakov was in Charan living with Lavan. Perhaps, Hashem would protect Esav because of this rather than Yaakov.

Rav Shmuel Moholiver, one of the founders of the Chovevei Tzion (religious Zionist) movement of the 19th century, was puzzled by this. A few Pesukim earlier, Yaakov said Im Lavan Garti, “I lived with Lavan,” and Rashi comments, based on Gematria, that this means Im Lavan Garti, Vitaryag Mitzvot Shamarti , “I lived with the wicked Lavan, and I still kept all of the Mitzvot.” Here, Yaakov, who has performed all of the Mitzvot, is afraid of Esav who has fulfilled the one Mitzva of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael!

From this we can learn the importance of the Mitzva of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael. Yaakov realized that even when a Rasha like Esav does this one Mitzva, he could be compared to a complete Tzaddik like Yaakov Avinu. If Esav lived in Eretz Yisrael but did not perform other Mitzvot, and yet he was equated to Yaakov Avinu, then imagine how much greater we would be if we would live in Eretz Yisrael and keep all of the other Mitzvot!

Halacha of the Week

Rav Mordechai Willig (in a lecture delivered at Lincoln Square Synagogue) stated that one should not remove his Kippah in a situation where he must attend a business meeting conducted in a non-kosher restaurant.

Food for Thought
by David Gertler

1) The number 400 recurs several times in Sefer Bereishit. First, Hashem tells Avraham that Avraham’s descendents will spend 400 years in a land that is not theirs (15:13). Second, Avraham bought Maarat Hamachpelah from Ephron for 400 Shekalim (23:16). In our Parsha, Yaakov’s messengers say that Esav has 400 men with him (32:7). What connection do these three events have?

2) There is a perplexing break in the narrative of the Chumash in 32:33 where it forbids us from eating the Gid Hanasheh. According to the Sefer Hachinuch this is the third Mitzvah in the Torah (following Piru Urivu and Brit Milah). The Mitzva of Milah is presented as part of the narrative, as Hashem tells Avraham that he and all of his descendents should do Milah. The Mitzva of Piru Urivu is given as part of the narrative except for a one-Pasuk exception. 2:24, parallel to 32:33, states that Al Kain, “because of what happened immediately before,” this Mitzva should be done in the future. In 2:24, the mandate is for man to leave his parents’ house and marry. Here the Torah says Bnai Yisrael are forbidden from eating the Gid Hanasheh because the angel who wrestled with Yaakov struck his hip. Why does Torah find it necessary to break from the narrative in these two cases?

3) 34:1-31 tells the story of Dinah’s abduction, rape, and rescue. At the end of the story, Shimon and Levi argue with Yaakov that they acted properly, and Yaakov does not respond to their final argument. Does this imply that Yaakov agreed with them? (See the Beracha given by Yaakov in Vayechi (49:5-7), its fulfillment in Sefer Bemidbar Sinai 1:49 and 25:1-5, the Berachot of Shimon and Levi in Devarim 33, and the parts of the land that Shimon and Levi each received.)

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Staff at time of publication:
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Managing Editors: Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter
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