Parshas Vayishlach

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum

ויירא יעקב מאד ויצר לו (פרק לב פסוק ח)
Our Parsha begins with Yaakov preparing to greet his brother Eisav who is approaching with plans of killing him. The פסוק describes Yaakov as being afraid of Eisav but this doesn’t seem compatible with what we know about Yaakov Avinu. After all, he was a holy man who always lived with the reality of Hashem in his life, and he should have been the paradigm of faith and trust in Hashem. How could he have been afraid of another human? Rav Shimon Schwab explains that fear is a natural human emotion and even great men are subject to being afraid when they are in a dangerous situation. This that we find that צדיקים place their full trust in Hashem is only after they daven to him. Once a צדיק pours out his heart in prayer to Hashem, he has בטחון that Hashem accepted his תפילה and will watch over him. Therefore, says Rav Schwab, soon after the פסוק describes Yaakov’s fear it relates how he davened to Hashem.  Once he asked Hashem to protect him from Eisav we do not find again that Yaakov was afraid. In fact, we see that he went by himself in the middle of the night to retrieve small jugs that he had left behind. It doesn’t make sense that a person in a fearful situation would put himself in greater danger by venturing out alone at night. We see that after Yaakov davened, he was no longer afraid of Eisav because now he had full faith that Hashem would protect him.

וישאל יעקב ויאמר הגידה נא שמך ויאמר למה זה תשאל לשמי ויברך אותו שם (פרק לב פסוק ל)
Yaakov is accosted by Eisav’s angel and after a fierce struggle emerges victorious aside from a blow to his hip. The angel then changes Yaakov’s name to Yisroel, which is a form of admission to Yaakov’s victory. Afterwards, Yaakov asks the angel what his name is, to which the angel responds, “why do you ask for my name”. He then proceeds to bless Yaakov. The final part of their conversation requires an explanation- why did Yaakov ask for the angel’s name and why did the angel respond so evasively? Finally, how did that dialogue result in a blessing from the angel? The משך חכמה explains that normally when blessing someone you need to know their name to properly direct the blessing. Therefore, when Yaakov asked the angel for his name, it was clear that his intention was to bless the angel, perhaps as a show of appreciation for the name Yisroel. To this the angel responded that Yitzchak already promised Yaakov that those who bless him will be blessed by Hashem. Therefore, Yaakov doesn’t need to know the angel’s name to then bless him directly. Rather, by the angel blessing Yaakov, he will automatically receive Hashem’s blessing through Yitzchak’s promise. This explains the continuation of the פסוק that the angel asked Yaakov why he needs to know his name, after all Yaakov has simpler ways of bestowing blessing on others. He then proceeds to bless Yaakov which results in the angel being blessed by Hashem even without Yaakov knowing his name.


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