• S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program

  • Peirot Haaretz  


    Elly Deutsch 

    Yeshivat Sha’alvim 


                At the beginning of the parshah, Yaakov sent a gift of hundreds of animals to appease his brother Eisav prior to their imminent meeting (Breishis 32:4). After their initial meeting, Eisav told Yaakov that he appreciated the gift, however, he had plenty, yaish lee rav, and he therefore, did not need the gift (Breishis 33:9). Yaakov responded that Eisav should keep the gift because he had all that he needed, yaish lee kol (Breishis 33:11). By analyzing the terms that each of the brothers used, we can see how each one viewed this world and how we should view ourselves in it.

                Eisav was a wealthy man who controlled a huge army and ruled his own country. Yet, as wealthy as he was, he was never satisfied with what he had, and always wanted more. A story is told of a Roman Emperor, who was a descendant of Eisav, who ruled over Eretz Yisrael. He asked his servants to prepare a large banquet with every possible delicacy. When he arrived at the banquet, he walked through the aisles to examine all the delicacies that his servants had prepared. After looking for a couple of minutes, the Emperor became agitated and turned to his servants and asked them why he could not find a particular nut anywhere. The servants responded that the nut was out of season and therefore, could not be attained. At that moment, the Emperor's agitation turned into ferocity and he flipped over all the tables of food. The Emperor had every possible delicacy known to man, with the exception of one nut and that was enough to get him to overturn every table. Without that one nut, he would have no pleasure in life. He was not satisfied with what he had, he always needed more.

                Yaakov on the other hand, responded to his brother, that he had everything. Rashi explains, that Yaakov was saying that he had all that he needed and was completely satisfied and happy with his lot. The mishnah in Avos (4:1) teaches us, aizehu asheer, hasomeiach bichelko, he who is rich, is happy with what he has. The Sfas Emes explains that true wealth is attained by the individual who recognizes that Hashem has allocated him his proper portion. Such an attitude is based upon the unshakable belief that Hashem compensates every individual with all his needs. We know the famous concept of ma'aseh avos siman l'bannim, the actions of our forefathers are a sign for their children. Yaakov was teaching us that we should always be satisfied with what we have received in this world and recognize that we do not need more. Yaakov knew that if he needed more, Hashem would have given it to him.          

                There is a famous story of a man who went to Radin, and wanted to visit the Chofetz Chaim. He asked the people of the city where the Chofetz Chaim lived and eventually got the address and directions how to get there. He walked up to the house, suitcase in hand, and knocked on the door. After a few moments, the Chofetz Chaim opened the door. The man looked in to the house, and saw that the floor was made of dirt and that there was not a lot of furniture. Shocked that such a gadol could have so little, the man asked "that's all you have?" The Chofetz Chaim, pointing at the suitcase, responded, "that's all you have?" The man replied, "I'm just passing through," to which the Chofetz Chaim responded, "so am I..." 

                The Mishnah in Avos (4:16) says that this world is a passageway for us to get to Olam HaBaa. The Chofetz Chaim, like Yaakov Avinu understood this; they realized that we are only in this world, to prepare ourselves for the world to come. This is why he told Eisav that he had everything. Yaakov understood that he was just "passing through" this world and had all he needed to do so. However, Eisav did not come to this realization. He believed that he was living for this world and not the world to come, therefore he was not satisfied with what he had- he had a lot, but not everything.   

                Just like Eisav's descendant learned from his ancestor to never be satisfied, we too must internalize the message of Yaakov, that we should always be satisfied with our portion of material wealth in this world, since we are just "passing through." Only in the area of ruchnius should a person never be satisfied and always strive for greater heights. We see this from Yaakov Avinu's dream in last week's parshah. In the dream, there was a ladder that reached up to shamayim. This dream symbolized Yaakov's desire to grow spiritually in this world, in order to propel him to the next. He was lying on the ground, and was looking for ways to climb the ladder to come closer to Hashem.



    Moshe Kurtz


        Jacob is crestfallen. Just as his family approaches Bethlehem, Rachel, the love of his life, passes away in childbirth. How could this happen? What could have caused such a tragedy? What did I do to deserve this?These are all thoughts that are likely to be going through Jacob's mind during his time of mourning.

                  Rashi from the previous week’s parshah gives an answer to this question – an answer - that were Jacob to know, would consume him with a guilt far too excruciating for him to bear: When Jacob was incensed that Laban had chased after him, he pronounced a curse upon the one who stole Laban’s idols, which unbeknownst to him, was Rachel. As a result Rachel died at a disturbingly young age. The underlying point: Rachel’s death was a result of Jacob’s anger.

                  Anger is known as one of the most unfavorable and notorious character traits in all of Judaism. So much so, that when the Rambam wrote about the Golden Mean, he warns that anger is a trait that one should shift to the opposite extreme.

    However, what exactly is it that makes anger so bad that it must be avoided with such desperation?

    The answer to this is two-fold: The Talmud in Pesachim (61b) states that the Divine Presence does not rest upon one who is consumed with anger. From this passage it is evident that God is repulsed by a person who is usually infuriated. Moreover, the Orchot Tzadikkim asserts that if a person is easily infuriated, no person will wish to learn from him – even if he is a man of vast Torah knowledge! From a combination of these two sources, it becomes axiomatic that whenever a man is overcome with the negative character trait of anger, not only is it bad for him in terms of his psychological health, but additionally it tarnishes his relationship withfriends and even more tragically, his relationship with God.

    One could ask: “Wait a minute, so if you mean to tell me that anger is detrimental not only to my psychological constitution, but to my spiritual health as well, then why is it that there is no verse in the Torah that prohibits it?” This is a legitimate question – however, it misses the point. R. Chayim Vital answers with a profound principle: the cultivation of good traits, and the eschewing of bad, such as anger, are pre-requisites to the Torah. The Torah did not omit midot because they are not significant – it is quite on the contrary: derech eretz kadmah l’Torah!

    Now, with the Torah’s understanding of the precedence of midot, there is one question left: why is anger singled out as one of the worst possible human character traits?

    I would like to suggest the following explanation. R. Luzzato asserts at the beginning of his Mesillat Yesharim, that the goal of man in this world is to attain (Divine) pleasure. Additionally, we are commanded to serve God b’shimcha ub’tov levav. Based on these concepts, it would be reasonable to state, that in Judaism, happiness constitutes both a necessity and goal. Now, what is anger? Anger – not sorrow - is the antithesis of happiness. Contrary to popular belief, there are positives which emerge from temporary sorrow. Sorrow can sober the mind, thereby giving one the opportunity to contemplate and introspect. Whereas when it comes to anger, there is no such benefit – quite the opposite in fact. Anger confounds the mind, consequently making it prone to bad decision making, and compulsive-irrational behavior. In regards to this, the Talmud in Pesachim (113b) states that “the life of a person who is normally enraged is not a life.”

    The Torah requires a man to be prudent, not impetuous. The Torah desires for man to be in a clear, thinking state of mind, not a disconcerted and impulsive one. Anger causes one to lose control over his rational thinking, to the point that he can bring about the inconceivable. Jacob’s anger was the stimulus for the indirect causation of Rachel’s death. Due to one burst of anger he caused extreme devastation in his life. But we need not look so far back as the historical narratives of the Torah to see the effects of anger. If one is to simply open his eyes, he will notice a whole world of discontent and angry people. The results of anger can negatively impact every kind of scenario, ranging from a rift in a private interpersonal relationship to a rash political-military decision. Jacob was an ish tam – a man not so easily tempered. If a man who was so rarely infuriated suffered so greatly from just one outburst of wrath, then certainly average people such as ourselves need to be exceedingly cautious from ever coming close to the loathsome trait of anger.



    Ariel Reiner

    Yeshivat Sha’alvim


                The encounter in this week’s parsha between Yaakov and the malach of Esav has ramifications that affect klal Yisrael in both the realm of halacha and identity. Halachically, this story is the source of the issur to eat the gid hanashe of a kosher animal (Breishit 32:33). Regarding our identity, this is the episode in which Yaakov receives the additional name of Yisrael, the name which his future nation, klal Yisrael, will take on forever more.

                There is however additional significance in this brief, yet monumental episode with the malach. The pasuk says “and Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn” (Breishit 32:25). The Beit HaLevi explains the symbolic meaning in this pasuk, which is also brought down in the Zohar. Just as Yaakov wrestled with the malach shel Esav until dawn, so too bnei Yisrael will not be saved from the war with Esav until the coming of mashiach which is  considered the dawn. The Beit HaLevi explains that even though there have been numerous redemptions up to this point, such as from Mitzrayim and Bavel, nonetheless the satan skipped around these geulas continuing the galut through destruction of bayit sheini and other calamities. These geulas were still in the midst of layla. The satan, the tragedy Esav brings us on a constant basis, will only be completely removed with the full redemption brought at alot hashachar.

                The Midrash Rabbah on parshat Bo (Shmot 18:11) says that the nissim done b’zman hazeh are nissim b’layla since they are passing nissim. However l’atid lavo the nissim will be b’yom, clear as day, and will be kayam la’ad. We could see this in the fact that the nissim which so many people, even non-Jews, attested to in the aftermath of the Six Day War, weren’t permanent. Israel continues to unfortunately see terror on a consistent basis. These are night time nissim; they are harder to see and they are somewhat fleeting.

                The idea of layla symbolizing galut is represented by the pasuk in Yeshaya (21:11) shomer ma milayla, shomer ma m’leil?, watchman what of the night? watchman what of the night?The pasuk’s repitions come to teach us that even after the first redemption of yetziat mitzrayim we went back into galut and needed more protection. The very next pasuk though says amar shomer, ata boker v’gam layla-  in the end there will be a protection of boker, an eternal protection, which as the Beit HaLevi explains, will also be layla for the goyim who caused us so much harm.

                Even though until now all of our redemptions have been night time redemptions, we daven for the day when the redemption will come at dawn and the malach of Esav, those who wish to and have continued to terrorize klal Yisrael are removed forever.

                This idea may help us understand a pasuk in last week’s parsha. After Yosef is born Yaakov says to Lavan “grant me leave that I may go to my place and to my land” (Breishit 30:25). Rashi on the spot says once the nemesis of Esav who is compared to straw, was born which is Yosef who is compared to a flame, Yaakov knew he could return to eretz Yisrael. Perhaps he knew now that Yosef was born, that even though there would be continued galut for years to come, mashiach ben Yosef, will eventually come at alot hashachat and destroy Esav.  

                May we reach the day very soon, when we won’t only see night time redemptions, but see the eternal geula of alot hashachar, which will ultimately rmove the satan from the world.



Yeshiva University
500 West 185th Street
New York, NY 10033

Connect With YU