Articles

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Parshas Vayishlach - Of Galut and War

Parshas Vayislach begins with Yaakov's encounter with Esav. Yaakov makes multiple preparations for this, but the bulk of it seems to involve appeasing Esav. Yaakov sends train after train of cattle to Esav. And he even calls this tribute, "Mincha Le'Esav", a term commonly used for Korbanot, Sacrifices to G-d. And worse when he meets Esav, he proclaims that seeing him is like seeing the face of G-d.

Satisfied that the blessings that Yitzchak gave to Yaakov, that he would dominate and rule over him, have come to nought, Esav hugs him and goes on his way. Yet what is the price that Yaakov pays for this tribute, for this Mincha Le'Esav?

The end of the Parsha lists in detail Esav's genealogy. Tribe after tribe, chieftain after chieftain. Why do we need to know all this information? We need to know it because it serves as a consequence. There in that moment stood Esav and from him would descend Amalek and Edom and Rome and Germany. In that moment so much evil might have been ended. Instead Yaakov paid him tribute. The Bracha of the firstborn that Yaakov had worked so hard for, was יַעַבְדוּךָ עַמִּים, וישתחו לְךָ לְאֻמִּים--הֱוֵה גְבִיר לְאַחֶיךָ, וְיִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לְךָ בְּנֵי אִמֶּךָ "You will be master over your brothers and the sons of your mother will bow to you." Yet Yaakov had no confidence in that bracha or in Hashem's promise of protection at Beth El and so instead it was Yaakov who deferred to Esav.

From there Yaakov's family approaches a city only to have Dinah kidnapped and molested by Shechem, the son of the ruler of the city. Hamor, the ruler of the city comes with his son in tow, to ask for Yaakov's permission to legalize the rape by marrying his daughter. And Yaakov remains silent. After all what can he do, on the one hand the obvious answer, certainly the conventional 'frum' one is to do a Mincha Le'Esav, to flatter Hamor and tell him what a great Lord he is, to defer to him and offer him presents and money in exchange for his own daughter. But in the aftermath of what was done to his daughter, this is too bitter a pill to swallow and so he says nothing and sits there and does not know what to do.

And then Bnei Yaakov Bau Min Hasadeh, the Sons of Yaakov Came Back From the Field. But of course Pasuk Heih already told us that Yaakov's sons were in the field. Why tell us a second time? Let's look back at Yitzchak's blessing to Yaakov. He prefaces it by saying, "The Smell of My Son is As The Smell of a Field Which the Lord Has Blessed." Yitzchak had sent Esav out not to go into the barn and kill a sheep, but had told him וְצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה Tzeh Hasadeh, "Go Out Into the Field" and hunt food. Why the field in particular? Why hunt food? Because going out and hunting represents the conquest of the physical world.

When Yaakov's sons, particularly Leah's sons returned from the field, they had come back from wrestling with the physical world. And they did not remain silent. Instead they decided there would be no more Mincha Le'Esav. Not only would they not pay to get their sister back or to enter into any arrangement, instead they would recover their sister, slay those responsible and take their property as loot instead.

From the perspective of the Galut Yid this is an insane idea. Go out and fight? Kill? Are you crazy? Okay, so something terrible happened here. But what can we do about it? Nothing, we sit there and remain silent. Then maybe we make a deal with Hamor or with someone over his head, we write a letter, make up a petition and then we'll lock up our women even more closely, maybe shave their heads and pray it doesn't happen again. And indeed that's exactly what Yaakov furiously tells his sons, Look how the Caananites are going to think of me. There's a lot of them and a few of us. They'll gang up on us and kill us all.

And what do the sons of Yaakov who have wiped out an entire city reply? Hakezonah Yaaseh Et Achoteinu? Should our sister be made as a harlot? And the Parsha gives them the last word.

The name of Dinah derives from Din or Justice and Law. Dinah can be read as Din Hashem or G-d's Law. When Shechem took and assaulted Dinah, he was also assaulting G-d's law which prohibited such things. The Torah is considered the Sister as well. When the Sons of Yaakov proclaim, Hakezonah Yaaseh Et Achoteinu, they are also saying, Shall the Torah Be Made into a Prostitute? Shall G-d's law be allowed to be perverted?

What happens when those who are responsible for upholding the Torah offer a Mincha Le'Esav, they shake hands with evil, they literally prostitute the Torah because they show that G-d's law is for sale. And that is why only after Levi and Shimon carry out Din Hashem on the city, does G-d call out to Yaakov and tell him to come to Beit El and make an altar. Before that Hashem does not call him, as if to say "You offered Esav a Mincha and now you want to offer me one too. You compared his face to the Face of G-d and now you want to see my face." Only when Din Hashem was carried out, was Yaakov summoned to serve G-d again. And indeed it is the sons of Levi who carried out the killing who become the servants of G-d and sacrifice at his altars. It is Moshe from Shevet Levi who leads the Jews out of Galut. Because of the willingness of Levi to fight for G-d, they deserve most of all to serve him and be close to him.

And how G-d commands Yaakov is significant too, he mentions "The G-d Who Appeared to You When You Fled From Your Brother Esav." This serves as a form of reproof of Yaakov who fled from Esav, despite having a Bracha and who sent a Mincha Le'Esav a second time, even though he had two reassurances from G-d.

Now when Yaakov travels to Beit El we are told וַיְהִי חִתַּת אֱלֹהִים, עַל-הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבוֹתֵיהֶם, וְלֹא רָדְפוּ, אַחֲרֵי בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב And the Fear of G-d Was On the Surrounding Cities And They Did Not Pursue the Sons of Yaakov. Why now was there fear on the cities and not before when Shechem had kidnapped Dinah? The answer that was they had known before that Yaakov had the blessing to be master of the land and inherit it, yet they also knew that he had humbled himself before Esav. Clearly the blessings did not amount to anything and so they felt free to do as they liked. Now when they saw that a few boys had executed justice on a city, they saw Din Hashem and so they were afraid of G-d now.

There are two ways that people feel the Fear of G-d. One is that G-d carries out miracles and wonders as he did over Egypt. The second is that those who serve G-d enforce justice in the land. Yaakov like Avraham bought land in Eretz Yisrael, yet this meant nothing as far as taking possession of it went. How does one take possession of the land? When Din Hashem is enforced on the land. When there is Justice and Law in the land, then the land has a Master.

Of the three Avot, two of them, Avraham and Yaakov had two wives. Both of these Avot were partly in Galut outside Eretz Yisrael. Only Yitzchak who never left Eretz Yisrael only had one wife. Of the two pairs of two wives, one represented the Wife of the Galut and one the Wife of Eretz Yisrael. By Avraham Avinu, it was clearly Sarah who was the Wife of Eretz and Hagar who was the Wife of Galut. By Yaakov Avinu, Leah was the Wife of Eretz Yisrael and Rachel was the Wife of the Galut.

How do we know this? Leah was the wife who was buried with Yaakov in Eretz Yisrael while Rachel was buried outside the land. It is Rachel who prays for her children going into Galut. It is Leah who gives birth to the majority of the Jewish people, including to the tribes of Yehuda and Levi, both of whom returned from the first Galut and endure until today. By contrast the larger Galut of the Ten Shevatim was marked as the Galut of Yosef and indeed Rehovam who split Yisrael from Yosef was from Ephraim.

While Leah represents the struggle for Eretz Yisrael, Rachel represents the comfort of Galut. For the first seven years, Yaakov worked for Leah, without even knowing it. He remained for the next seven years for Rachel. Rachel was beautiful to his eyes, as Galut is beautifully seductive to those Jews who remain in it. Like the "Pot of Meat" of Egypt or the rich comfort of Goshen to which Yosef would eventually bring the other Shevatim, she was appealing to the eyes. Yet Rachel was also Yaakov's tie to the Galut and the idols in her tent testified to that attachment.

Yaakov remained closest to his Wife of the Galut, even after her death and indeed he lived much of his life in Galut and descended down and died in Galut Mitzrayim. By contrast the sons of Leah were not of that character. They fought for their rights and resented the Sons of the Galut and drove Yosef out. The culmination of the struggle forced them to accept the Galut and Yosef's rule in Egypt, yet when the Jews are led out it is not by a Ben Rachel, but by the Bnei Leah. The Sons of Levi lead the Jews out. In Eretz Yisrael a Ben Rachel, Shaul is given a chance to rule, but like Yaakov he spares Edom and lets the King of Amalek and his cattle live. And so David of Yehuda replaces him instead. When the final Geulah comes, Moshiach ben Yosef dies and gives way to Moshiach ben David to end the Galut for good.

What perpetuates the Galut? The Mincha Le'Esav. Every time a Mincha is given to Esav, we worship Esav instead of Hashem. After Yaakov gave a Mincha to Esav, the Bnei Yisrael who approached Edom were told not to go out to war with Edom and to only buy food and water from them. It was as if G-d was saying, "You gave tribute to Esav, now give him some more." When we give a Mincha to Esav, HaKezonah Yaaseh et Achoteinu, we turn the Torah which is our sister into a prostitute. We demonstrate that Torah law and values are for sale and can be compromised. When we rise like the sons of Yaakov, but stripped of the anger which Yaakov cursed, but in the name of Din Hashem which has been defiled, we shorten the Galut by serving G-d.

7 comments:

LemonLimeMoon said...

Wow how cool is this ?
Very nice!

Anonymous said...

I love what seems to be a enlightened maybe even new interpretation. Seems to really fit current times. Isn't there a concept that what happened to our fathers will be repeated with the children? The scary question is how many people will suffer.

Sultan Knish said...

yes maaseh avot siman le'banim, so history repeats itself literally

some elements of what i wrote were new, at least new to me

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this piece. Very insightful!

-- MAOZ

marcel said...

Great message ,Thank you Knish.

just fix this.

'Leah was the wife who was buried with Yaakov in Eretz Yisrael while Leah was buried outside the land'

---
Paula Stern has an article on how to negotiate with the Arabs.

How is it that they do not believe or hear what Hashem says ?

"I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. 31 And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the [fn2] River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you."

J Joelli said...

What Does Keturah, Avrahams third wife, represent?

Sultan Knish said...

good question

since many commentaries believe keturah was hagar, that's one answer

since in any case keturah was married after hagar was gone, she'd simply have functioned as his second wife and the wife of the galut

Post a Comment