The Portion of Vayishlach

Genesis 32:4-36:43

In this week’s portion, Jacob prepares to face his brother after many years apart, cognizant of Esau’s vow to destroy him one day. He readies his camp and prays, and sends gifts to appease his brother. Before the encounter, Jacob struggles with an angel who blesses him and gives him a new name. When Jacob finally meets up with Esau, the reunion is more positive than he had hoped.

 

Jacob settles in the land of his fathers, but tragedy mars the experience, as his daughter Dinah is raped in Shechem. His sons avenge her violation, much to their father’s consternation.

 

Ultimately, Jacob returns to his father before Isaac’s death. The portion closes with an accounting of Esau’s family tree.

 

 

Topic 1: Preparing to Meet Esau

Jacob sends messengers ahead to his brother to alert Esau that he is coming home. The messengers return with an ominous report: Esau is coming out to greet him with four hundred men!   To prepare for the potentially hostile encounter, Jacob divides his camp into two groups, so that if one is attacked, at… Read More »

 

 

Topic 2: Striving with an Angel

Overnight, Jacob rises and crosses the Jabbok river with his family and belongings. Jacob is left alone, however, at some point in the night, and spends the rest of it striving with a mysterious opponent. The two wrestle throughout the night, and Jacob’s opponent cannot overcome him. At daybreak, the mysterious stranger inflicts a serious… Read More »

 

 

Topic 3: An Encounter with Esau

When Jacob spies Esau in the distance, he again divides and organizes his camp. He walks ahead of them and bows seven times before his brother. Esau embraces Jacob, and the brothers weep. Esau is awed by the magnitude of Jacob’s camp. Jacob tells Esau that everything he sent before him is a gift for… Read More »

 

 

Topic 4: Dinah in Shechem

Despite Jacob’s hope that he could settle peacefully in the land of his fathers, tragedy strikes his family when his daughter, Dinah, is kidnapped and raped by the eponymous prince of the city. Prince Shechem becomes enamoured with her and wishes to marry her, so his father, Hamor, seeks Jacob’s permission. He insists, however, on… Read More »

 

 

Topic 5: Jacob’s Return Home and Esau’s Family Tree

God now tells Jacob he should fulfil his early promise and return to build an altar at Beit El. Jacob prepares his household, stripping members of vestiges of idolatry and burying them in Shechem. The family then travels unmolested towards Beit El, as God has extended His protection over them.   The Torah notes that… Read More »

 

 

Topic 6: Haftarah - A Holocaust Refuge on Mount Zion

As the situation for European Jewry began to deteriorate, the Chofetz Chaim was asked in 1933 about the fate of the Jewish people. As recorded by one of his close disciples, the revered rabbi answered, “Hitler shall fail! No one has ever succeeded in destroying our nation in the lands of our dispersion. The verse… Read More »
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