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ולא אחר הנער לעשות הדבר כי חפץ בבת יעקב

The youth did not delay doing the thing, for he wanted Yaakov’s daughter. (34:19)

One who reads the story of Shechem’s obsession with Dinah bas Yaakov must be taken aback. As prince of the country, Shechem could have had anything/anyone that he wanted. Yet, due to his compelling desire for Dinah, he risked his life and the lives of all his countrymen. Is this rational? To be driven by such desire is ludicrous, bordering on insanity. Yet, it happened. One powerful lesson may be derived: Nothing stands in the way of one’s will. It is a two-way street. One can either ride his ratzon, will, to extraordinary success, or plummet down to the nadir…

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ויעקב נסע סכתה ויבן לו בית ולמקנהו עשה סכת. על כן קרא שם המקום סכת

Yaakov journeyed to Succos and built himself a house, and, for his livestock, he made shelters. He, therefore, called the name of the place Succos. (33:17)

According to the simple p’shat, explanation, of the pasuk, Yaakov Avinu built a house for himself and succos, temporary housing/pens, for his cattle. Targum Yonasan ben Uziel explains the words, Va’yiven lo bayis, “And he built for himself a house”; u’banah lei bei midrasha, “he built for himself a bais medrash.” In other words, Yaakov built for himself a place to study Torah – this was his house, his domicile. For his sheep and cattle, he built succos. This seems unbelievable. Why should Yaakov give a name to a place based upon the temporary housing that he made for his…

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קטנתי מכל החסדים ... כי במקלי עברתי את הירדן הזה

I have been diminished by all the kindnesses… for with my staff I crossed this Yarden. (32:11)

At first glance, with a cursory reading of the pasuk, one is availed a window in Yaakov Avinu’s “rags to riches” story. He crossed the Yarden alone with nothing but his makel, staff, and today he is blessed with a large, productive family and all the material assets that he needs! Targum Onkelos adds a twist to the translation of these words, which gives us pause to reconsider what the Patriarch is saying. Arei yechidi avris yas Yardena ha’dein, “I crossed this Yarden alone.” Yaakov was not lamenting his economic state, but rather his emotional one, the loneliness that engulfed…

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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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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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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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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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ותמנע היתה פילגש לאליפז בן עשו

And Timna was a concubine for Elifaz, the son of Eisav. (36:12)

Timna did not have an easy time carrying out her request to join the family of Avraham Avinu. Chazal teach that Timna, sister of Lotan, daughter of Seir, aluf of Eisav, king of the Chorim, was a princess who had it all – luxury, honor, material satisfaction. Yet, she rejected her pagan upbringing, choosing instead the G-d of Avraham. They (the descendants of Avraham) refused to accept her, due to her Canaanite lineage. The bloodlines are very important to us, and Canaan just was not a nation to which we wanted to attach ourselves. (They certainly saw negative traits in…

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ויותר יעקב לבדו ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר... ויגע בכף ירכו... והוא צלע על ירכו

Yaakov was left alone and a man fought with him until the break of dawn… and he struck Yaakov’s thigh… and Yaakov was limping. (32:25,26,32)

The encounter between Yaakov Avinu and the mysterious man is fraught with questions. First, how can the Torah say that our Patriarch was left alone? A Jew is never alone. Hashem Yisborach is always with us. Melo kol haaretz k’vodo, “The entire world is filled with His Glory.” Furthermore, Hashem promised Yaakov, V’Anochi eheyeh imach, “I will be with you.” Yaakov might have been distant from human encounter, but he certainly was not alone. Second, in the battle that ensued between Yaakov and the “ish”/angel of Eisav, why did the angel choose specifically to strike Yaakov’s ability to move, i.e….

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והיה המחנה הנשאר לפליטה

Then the remaining camp shall survive. (32:9)

Yaakov Avinu’s plan to save his family was based on a three-pronged preparation: battle, prayer, tribute. On the surface, these courses of action appear to be incongruent to one another, with aggression and servility sending contradictory messages. Obviously, prayer is first and foremost – and the only effective means of success. Without Divine intervention, we have no hope for success. Nonetheless, Yaakov took a practical approach to his encounter, knowing full-well that Eisav was angry and that he felt his anger was justified. Our Patriarch was, however, acutely aware that practical solutions succeed only when it is the will of…

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