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ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר

And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. (32:25)

It was in middle of the night that Yaakov Avinu encountered a “man” who fought with him until he was bested by the Patriarch. We know that this was no ordinary man – and no ordinary fight. This was none other than Eisav’s Heavenly angel, and the battle was one which represented the forces of evil against the forces of good. The angel representing Eisav lost the fight, but, throughout the millennia, he has not thrown in the towel, as he has attempted at every available juncture to turn the tide against Yaakov’s descendants. The question that confronts the reader…

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על כן לא יאכלו בני ישראל את גיד הנשה עד היום הזה

Therefore Bnei Yisrael are not to eat the Gid ha’nasheh, displaced sinew on the hip-socket,…to this day. (32:33)

When Eisav’s angel saw that he could not best Yaakov Avinu, he made one last attempt at maiming the Patriarch by striking his gid-hanashe. To commemorate this battle, Yaakov’s descendants are prohibited from consuming the nerves/sinew which are included under the rubric of gid ha’nashe. The commemoration of the miracle of Yaakov’s triumph in battle over the forces of evil seems counterproductive. Issur achilah, prohibition from eating, is a shev v’al taaseh, passive form of celebrating the miracle, the direct opposite of the manner in which we celebrate the many miracles which are part of our continued existence. Horav Moshe…

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ויקחו שני בני יעקב שמעון ולוי אחי דינה איש חרבו... ויהרגו כל זכר

And two of Yaakov’s sons, Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each (man) took his sword… and killed every male. (34:25)

In his commentary to Nazir 29b, Rashi comments based upon the Midrash that Levi was thirteen years old at the time that he and Shimon took vengeance on the men of Shechem. Wherever the Torah uses the word ish, man, it refers to someone over the age of thirteen years. Likewise, we find that Betzalel, architect of the Mishkan, was thirteen years old when he made the Mishkan. Concerning him, the Torah writes, Ish ish mimelachato, “Each (man) of them from his work” (Shemos 36:4). Additionally, we find that the Rambam reiterated the halachah that the age of thirteen years…

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ויהי בהקשתה בלדתה ותאמר לה המילדת אל תיראי כי גם זה לך בן

And it was when she had difficulty in her labor that the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for this one, too, is a son for you.” (35:17)

The Brisker Rav, zl, observes that Rachel Imeinu’s fear was not of dying, but rather, her anxiety resulted from her agonizing over losing a shevet, tribe, in Klal Yisrael. Thus, when the midwife told her, “Have no fear, this child will carry on your legacy as one of the Shivtei Kah, tribes of Hashem, Rachel calmed down and was prepared to confront her mortality. The Brisker Rav expressed a similar idea following the European Holocaust. He related to Horav Eliezer Palchinksy, zl, that not a day passes that he is masiach daas, diverts his attention, from thinking about his family…

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ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע... ושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך... כי לא אעזבך.

Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva… I will guard you wherever you go… for I will not forsake you. (28:10,15)

Yaakov Avinu was compelled to make a hasty departure from Be’er Sheva. He would have loved living in the vicinity of his parents, but that would have meant putting his life in mortal danger. After Yaakov’s “appropriation” of the brachos, blessings, Eisav swore that he would seek ultimate revenge. This was Yaakov’s cue to take an extended trip. He stopped in Beis El, and, while he was there, he was privy to an incredible dream in which Hashem assured him of His Divine protection and blessing. It should have been all good, with the Patriarch calm and looking forward to…

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ותקנא רחל באחותה

Rachel became jealous of her sister. (30:1)

Horav Shabsi Yudelewitz, zl (grandfather and namesake of the famous maggid), knew that his days on this world were numbered. He was not a well man to begin with, and the physical travail which he sustained emigrating to Eretz Yisrael during the turn of the century, followed by the poverty and hunger he experienced in Yerushalayim, had taken its toll on him. He knew that would soon go the way of all men. He and his wife had been assured early in their marriage by a great tzaddik, righteous person, that “In the future, you will give birth to a…

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ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע

Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva. (28:10)

Rashi comments that as long as Yaakov Avinu lived in Beer Sheva, he constituted its hod, glory, ziv, splendor, and hadar, beauty. Once he left the community, these qualities left with him – a phenomenon that occurs whenever a tzaddik, righteous man, of repute leaves a circle of people. His influence, which consists of these three qualities, departs with him. We must add that every individual tzaddik has his own unique form of these qualities. Thus, even though Yitzchak Avinu and Rivkah Imeinu remained, their form of these qualities left a different impact on those around them. Theirs was a…

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אברהם הוליד את יצחק

Avraham begot Yitzchak. (25:19)

The Torah underscores that Avraham and Yitzchak were father and son. One would think this is a confirmed verity and does not require the Torah’s reinforcement. Apparently, as Midrash Tanchuma (quoted by Rashi) posits, the leitzanei ha’dor, cynics of the generation, intimated that Sarah Imeinu actually had become pregnant during her short captivity in the home of Avimelech, so that Avraham Avinu had not fathered Yitzchak, but actually, Avimelech had fathered him. Therefore, Hashem made Yitzchak’s features so undeniably similar to Avraham’s that no one could doubt Avraham’s status. Two questions glare at us: Why were these scoffers referred to…

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ויאמר עשו אל יעקב הלעיטני נא מן האדם האדום הזה... על כן קרא שמו אדום

Eisav said to Yaakov, “Pour into me, now, some of the very red stuff… (He therefore called his name Edom).” (25:30)

Avraham Avinu fathered Yishmael about whom we read in the previous parsha. The other symbol of evil born from a Patriarch was Eisav ha’rasha, Yaakov Avinu’s twin. The Torah makes a point to enumerate the alufim, heads of the tribes, of both Yishmael and Eisav, more so than other pagan nations. This is because these two individuals/nations represent the root source of the evil of all the other pagan nations. Horav Moshe Shapiro, zl (Mimaamakim), explains that Yishmael and Eisav represent the two primary categories of the seventy nations of the world, with each individual nation drawing its source of…

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הנה אנכי הולך למות ולמה זה לי בכרה

“Look, I am going to die, of what use to me is a birthright?” (25:32)

Eisav’s negative position vis-à-vis the bechorah, birthright, is clear: He was not interested in it. His reason: “I am going to die, of what use to me is a birthright?” Rashi explains Eisav’s rationale. He was likely to die as a result of performing the sacrificial service improperly. A deeper understanding of this may be that a life of relinquishment, or spiritual life as he knew it, was tantamount to death. Eisav viewed spirituality, with its various demands and strictures, as an imposition on his desired lifestyle. He was on earth to live – not die. A sincere person understands…

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