Illuminations #100, Kislev 5777, Parshat Vayishlach

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Illuminations #100, Kislev 5777, Parshat Vayishlach

Torah Gems

When Yaakov Avinu thought he was in danger of Eisav coming to kill him, he sent presents in an attempt to appease him prior to their meeting. Later, after they had met, Eisav told Yaakov to take back the presents for he has “a lot.” In response, Yaakov said, “Please take it? for I have everything.”

Rav Wolbe explains that in these two statements from Yaakov and Eisav we see a fundamental difference in their outlook in life’s purpose. Eisav, whose entire life revolved around material acquisitions and pleasures, only felt that he had “plenty,” for one whose entire objective is earthly desires will never feel satisfied with what he has and will forever be wanting more. 

Yaakov Avinu on the other hand, whose life revolved around serving Hashem, was completely content with what he had and desired no more. This feeling was not simply a resignation of having to make do with he had, rather it was a positive frame of mind that life is about serving Hashem and not about one’s own desires.

Chazal tell us that by achieving this level Yaakov actually got a taste of The World To Come. This is because the struggle of this world centers around the Yetzer Hara trying to entice a person to go after earthly desires. Thus, one who can control this desire and cultivates the feeling that “I have everything” to a large extent is no longer in the grasp of the Yetzer  Hara and this “earthly struggle.”  

Parsha Pearls

The pasuk tells us that after Yaakov Avinu had gone back to get small jugs, he remained alone and a man fought him until daybreak. The Medrash tells us that the person who fought Yaakov was actually the Angel of Eisav, whose name was Samael. However, in Pirkei D’rebbe Elazar it states that upon defeating the Angel of Eisav, Yaakov asked him his name, to which he strangely responded that his name is the name of Yaakov himself, “Yisroel”. How are we to understand this?

Rav Schwab explains that it is well known that the primary Midah of Yaakov Avinu was the midah of Emes. The Angel of Eisav, on the other hand, was the Yetzer Harah, who represents Sheker. Sheker will often not suffice by presenting itself as something false and simply attempt to convince a person to follow it, for this may not persuade a truthful person. Rather, the Sheker will showcase itself as being the truth. This is the meaning behind the Angel saying his name is Yisroel, as he is presenting himself as the truth.

This adds a whole new dimension to our war against the Yetzer Harah. For not only must we not succumb to our desires and temptations which we know are wrong, we must also always question if what we are seeing is the truth, or just misrepresentation of the Yetzer Harah.

Glimpses of Greatness

Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Yaakov Kamanetzky were once getting a ride home from a wedding. Before entering the car, Rav Moshe and Rav Yaakov had a short discussion after which Rav Moshe got into the front seat and Rav Yaakov got in the back. Rav Moshe explained to the puzzled driver that they were discussing who would be getting out first, and that he should get in the back so that even for a little bit it should not, chas v’shalom, look like the driver is their chauffer.


Halacha Weekly

Q. Can one purchase non-kosher food to give to non-Jewish workers? [II-153]

A. The Torah says in Vayikra, 11-35, “And anything on which part of their carcass may fall shall be contaminated –an oven or a stove shall be destroyed… they are impure  and they will remain [in a state of being ] impure for you. The Jerusalem Talmud (Shviit 7 halacha 1) says:  And impure they will be for you  what is the Talmud saying? Is it not already said, ‘Impure they will be for you? Rather it is to include one prohibition of eating and another prohibition of benefit. Anything which the Torah prohibits, it is prohibited to conduct business with it [trading with that forbidden object], and everything that is [prohibited] based on the words of the Rabbis, it is permitted to conduct business with it. What about a donkey? For the purpose of work it was raised and… What about a camel? For its work it was raised.”

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 117-3,4) states, “ The prohibition involves matters involving eating, but horses and camels that are just for work are not included in the prohibition.” The AruchHashulchan (R. Yechiel Michel Epstein Z”L) (117-9) – writes: “Already, it is customary to purchase for the sake of workers, and there is not concern for a prohibition in this, because the prohibition is only to trade [with the prohibited item] and not [purchasing] for [the sake] of one’s workers.