Perashat Vayishlah 5778
Perashat Vayishlah 5778Friday, December 01, 2017
This week's perasha opens with the preparations of Ya'akob prior to meeting his brother and rival Esav. The Torah contrasts Esav, who advances with an army of 400 men, with Ya'akob, who prepared himself in three ways. As explained by Rashi, he sent big gifts to Esav through messengers along with pleasant words of reconciliation. Then he prayed from the depths of his heart, and lastly, readied himself for war.
Ya'akob succeeds at defusing the tension between himself and Esav. He humbles himself before his brother in the second pasuk of the Perasha: "Thus shall you say, 'To my lord, to Esav, so said your servant Ya'akob..." [Beresheet 32:5]. In giving kabod, respect, in such a way, it allows his opponent to save face. Many times gaavah, pride, prevents one from doing what is right to make peace, even when it is uncomfortable and self-effacing. Sometimes, it's best to endure for a few moments that which will yield long-lasting benefits.
Our sages illustrate this so beautifully in Avot D'Rabbi Natan 41, which states that a person should always, "Be pliable like a reed, not rigid like a cedar. Look at this reed, when the winds blow, it moves with the wind - when the winds are silent, the reed returns to its place. Therefore, the reed merits that we use it to write a Sefer Torah. But the cedar tree doesn't stay in its place, rather, when the (strongest) Southern wind blows, it is uprooted and turned on its head. Where does the cedar tree end up? It ends up being thrown in the fire."
A person must emulate the reed, be flexible and lower one's head when a challenging situation arises and use the path of humility without involving oneself in controversy. In the end this will pay off because as time passes he will remain standing without breaking like the immovable cedar tree.
Ya'akob Abinu knew this well. His experience in the house of Laban, with whom Ya'akob lived for twenty years, tested him for such a challenge. In last week's perasha, we saw how brazen and conniving Laban was. How is it that after so much time in the presence of such an egotistical man, Ya'akob was able to resist Laban's influence and act in such a remarkably humble way towards Esav?
Had it not been for the fourteen years he spent learning Torah in the Bet Midrash of Shem and Eber before he came to Laban's house, Ya'akob would not have succeeded in keeping his middot intact. Torah learning grants one the strength and fortitude needed to withstand any temptations, bad character traits and faulty ideologies. One who learns Torah has a spiritual armor that protects him. Ya'akob knew the dangers awaiting him in Laban's house. He immersed himself in study and thus succeeded in not being influenced by the corruption surrounding him.
This is a lesson that we must practically implement in our own lives. In our world today, we are surrounded daily with moral challenges. One who sets time aside daily to learn Torah receives guidance on the proper way to lead one's life, is prepared for all challenges and temptations that arise, and merits to have a good and blissful life in this world and in the next.
Apr 20 2019
Nisan 15 5779