Vort from the Rav: Vayishlach

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Genesis 32:8

וַיִּירָא יַֽעֲקֹב מְאֹד וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ
Jacob became very frightened and was distressed 

Rashi comments that וַיִּירָא יַֽעֲקֹב suggests that Jacob expressed fear that he might be killed, while וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ conveys Jacob’s concern that he may have to kill others. Jacob, recognizing that this conflict with Esau would continue until the Messianic era, was afraid that his descendents would ultimately come to adopt Esau’s violent modus operandi, the יָדַיִם יְדֵי עֵשָׂו – the hands are the hands of Esau (v. 27:22).

After Abraham had defeated the four kings, the Ramban comments that Abraham was afraid that they would regroup and avenge themselves. God therefore told him אַל תִּירָא, do not fear (v. 15:1). Similarly, when Moses expressed fear prior to his battle with Og, King of Bashan, God again said not to be afraid (Num 21:34). Yet, in this narrative, as Jacob expresses his fear of Esau, God strikingly does not reassure Jacob. The conflict between Abraham and the four kings, as well as Moses with Og, represented one-time conflicts. Jacob, however, foresaw that this conflict with Esau would continue through the ages. God would not reassure Jacob that in every future skirmish with Esau he would emerge victorious. (Moriah, undated)

About Arnold Lustiger

Dr. Arnold Lustiger is a research scientist and has edited multiple volumes of the Rav's Torah, including the recently published Chumash Mesoras HaRav.

One comment

  1. Related is R/Lord Jonathan Sacks’s piece on this week’s parashah The Parable of the Tribes (Vayishlach 5775), which concludes:
    … Shechem’s single act of violence against Dina forced two of Jacob’s sons into violent reprisal and in the end everyone was either contaminated or dead. It is indicative of the moral depth of the Torah that it does not hide this terrible truth from us by depicting one side as guilty, the other as innocent.

    Violence defiles us all. It did then. It does now.

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