Parshas Vayishlach

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By R’ Shloimie Lindenbaum

וישלח יעקב מלאכים לפניו (פרק לב פסוק ד)

The Parsha begins with Yaakov sending מלאכים to his brother Eisav, trying to preempt Eisav’s attack with a generous gift. Rashi immediately tells us that the usage of the term מלאכים here is literal, that Yaakov sent actual angels, as opposed to it referring to human messengers. R’ Chaim Leib Auerbach, the father of R’ Shlomo Zalman זצ”ל, pointed out something very interesting. We know that when Yaakov was on his way to the house of Lavan he stopped to learn in Yeshiva for 14 years. After that he continued on his way and Hashem came to him in a dream, showing him מלאכים going up and down a ladder. Our Parsha takes place after he left Lavan’s house. It is strange, then, that after learning in Yeshiva for 14 years מלאכים only appeared to Yaakov in a dream, but after living in Lavan’s house for 20 years he had live interaction with מלאכים. Wouldn’t the opposite make sense, shouldn’t he be on a higher level after being in Yeshiva than after having lived by Lavan? He answered that when Yaakov left Yeshiva he was heading towards the house of Lavan- a place filled with טומאה and עבודה זרה. When he left Lavan’s house, however, he was heading back to his father’s home, one of קדושה and דביקות בה’. Many times what matters most in life is not where we are coming from, but rather we are heading to. When we are on the path to קדושה we are better off than when heading towards טומאה, even if our current situation doesn’t appear so.

כה אמר עבדך יעקב עם לבן גרתי (פרק לב פסוק ה)

Yaakov sends a message to Eisav that until now he has lived with Lavan. Rashi explains the significance of this is hinted to in the word גרתי, which is the numerical value of 613- that is to say, that Yaakov kept all 613 מצוות while in Lavan’s house. Then Rashi adds another line, “and I did not learn from his [Lavan’s] evil ways.” Many ask, what is Rashi adding with this- obviously if he kept all the מצוות then he didn’t learn from Lavan? The Chofetz Chaim answered that in this statement Yaakov was admonishing himself. Although Lavan was an evil person, Yaakov could have applied lessons from Lavan to his own service of Hashem. Specifically, the zeal and enthusiasm with which Lavan perpetrated evil, could have been a lesson in how Yaakov could perform מצוות. Yaakov was lamenting that he didn’t learn from Lavan how to improve his own service of Hashem. R’ Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, a great Chassidic master, put a different spin on the same idea. He said that Yaakov was insisting to Eisav that he had no need to learn anything from Lavan, because even Lavan’s enthusiasm in doing עבירות  was matched by Yaakov in his מצוות. While the two explanations may display a difference in the Chassidic style versus the Litvish (the Chassidim emphasizing the joy in all that has been accomplished versus the Litvish stressing all that we can still strive to achieve), both teach us the importance of learning from everything in the world how to better serve Hashem and provide us with a way to inspire our שמחה in our עבודת ה’.

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