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ויהי ביום השלישי בהיותם כאבים ויקחו שני בני יעקב ... איש חרבו ... ויהרגו כל זכר

And it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Yaakov’s sons… each took his sword… and killed every male. (34:25)

Shimon and Levi’s punishment of the supportive cast of Shechem’s violation of Dinah obviously does not sit well with those whose knowledge of halachah is limited. According to the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 9), the people were held culpable because of their indifference to the crime which one of their own perpetrated. They should have judged him and carried out the appropriate punishment. Because they did not, they are viewed as co-conspirators, participants in the crime. The question that remains is: Why did Shimon and Levi carry out their deed after the men had carried out their circumcision? Why not punish…

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ויותר יעקב לבדו

Yaakov was left alone. (32:25)

Our Patriarch was left alone on that fateful night. What does “alone” really mean? Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 77:1) cite the pasuk in Yeshayah (2:11), V’nisgav Hashem levado, “And Hashem alone will be exalted,” which the commentaries explain, “There are no other gods, as everyone in the world will come to recognize on that day – so too, was Yaakov Avinu among men alone in a category all to himself. His spiritual level and strength catapulted him over everyone.” Levado, alone, has a few interpretations, based upon circumstances and the individual. It can be defined as lonely, hopeless, without physical, moral…

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עם לבן גרתי ואחר עד עתה

I have sojourned with Lavan and have lingered until now. (32:5)

Rashi explains Yaakov Avinu’s comment concerning his stay with Lavan. “I did not become a dignitary or a notable, but a mere sojourner. Thus, it does not befit you to hate me, because our father’s blessing, Hevei g’vir l’achecha, ‘Be a lord to your brothers,’ has not been fulfilled in me.” In other words, “Eisav, if you are upset concerning the brachos that I received, do not be, because they were not fulfilled.” Alternatively, Rashi says, the gematria, numerical equivalent, of garti is taryag, 613, as if to say, “I have sojourned with Lavan, yet I have observed all 613…

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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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