Illuminations #183, Kislev, 5779, Parshat Vayishlach

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Illuminations #183, Kislev, 5779, Parshat Vayishlach

Torah Gems

The verse states, “Save me please from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav.” The language Yaakov chose is quite peculiar. Let him either say “from the hand of my brother,”or “from the hand of Eisav,” because he had only one brother. The Beis HaLevi answers that when Yaakov went to meet Eisav he was scared of two things: either Eisav would be nice to him like a brother and would want to live close to Yaakov, or Eisav would still hate him and try to kill him. For this Yaakov mentioned both.

​One could understand if Yaakov was scared because Eisav wanted to take revenge for stealing the Berachot, however why would Yaakov be afraid if Eisav had forgiven him and wanted to live near him? The Beis Halevi answers that Yaakov understood that living close to Eisav is a spiritual danger as much as the Eisav who wants to kill him. In the past and even a little now we face persecution because we are Jews, however most of the battle now is a spiritual war. How many have we lost to intermarriage or to the enticement the world tries to show us? Our battle these days is to fight these forces and come back to Hashem by learning his Torah and doing Mitzvot. This is what the Chashmonaim fought on Chanukah, the fight to remain a real Torah Jew.  This could also be the reason why Yaakov said first “save me from the hand of my brother” because a spiritual danger can be greater than a physical one.

Parsha Pearls

When Yaakov realized he left small jars across the river he went back to retrieve them. There in the dark of night he was met by the angel of Eisav with whom he fought until the morning, eventually defeating him. With that, the angel went back to sing praise to Hashem. This is how Rashi explains the verses.

The Rashbam explains that Yaakov wasn’t trying to get small jars, rather he was trying to run away from a fight with Eisav. There the Angel of Yaakov met Yaakov to stop him. This was in order that he should see Hashem’s promise to protect would come true. Rav Zev Leff explains the Rashbam that in order for a person to grow he needs challenges. A test pushes us to our limit. This is why the Angel of Yaakov met Yaakov,  to tell him, “Do not run away from this challenge, you can deal with it and pass it.”  If a person feels that running from his problems is the best thing, he must consult a Rabbinic Authority. The way we become bigger people is by continuously overcoming life’s obstacles.

Glimpses of Greatness

The Chofetz Chaim was constantly aware of the opportunity for mitzvoth in everything he did. His son-in-law related that once when they rode together and alighted from a wagon, the Chafetz Chaim seemed displeased. The son-in-law reassured him saying, “I tipped him well.” The Chofetz Chaim asked his son-in-law what he had in mind when he paid the driver, but the son-in-law did not respond.  The Chafetz Chaim continued to explain that the son-in-law fulfilled so many mitzvos – paying a worker on time, giving sustenance to a fellow Jew, and more – but it had been done casually without thinking about the mitzvoth he had fulfilled. We should try to give more thought to our actions throughout the day. How may mitzvoth we would accomplish and how much greater the reward would be if we gave it more thought!!

Halacha Weekly

Q. Is one permitted to give charity to Non-Jews in the same manner as one gives to a Jew? [[I-YD 7-213]

A. It says in Devarim 7:2, “Lo tichrot lahem Brit vlo techanem,” “You shall not make with them a covenant and not show them favor.”   The Gemara explains in Avodah Zarah (20a), “‘Lo techanem’  [means] that one should not give to them a free gift.” It is prohibited to give anything to them as a free gift unless there is some benefit to oneself in giving the gift to them. If so, what is the case if one is confronted by a poor non-Jew looking for charity?  Is one permitted to give him charity or is one not allowed to do so?

There is a leniency to give non-Jewish poor money, because it is ‘for the sake of Peace.’ Tosafot (Avodah Zarah 20a (DH ‘Rabbi Yehudah’) asks how is it permitted for us to sustain non-Jewish poor for the sake of Peace?  Isn’t there a prohibition of ‘lo techanem,’ not to give to them anything as a free gift? He answers that if it is for the purpose of darchei shalom, for the sake of peace, this does not qualify as a ‘free’gift. [Because, there is a benefit from performing the action since it creates peace.] Therefore it is not prohibited to do so. Beit Yehudah (R. Yehuda Ayish, Z”L ) writes that one is permitted to give them food, however, not in an abundant measure more than any other poor. Certainly for the sake of peace it is [also] permitted to give them [an amount of tzedaka] similar to that which is given to other [Jewish] poor.