Shabbat Shalom Dear Readers Parshat Vayishlach 5775

December 5, 2014
Chagall's Jacobs Ladder

Chagall’s Jacob’s Ladder

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The following is an edited version of an article that appeared last year on Globe Tribune.Info.

This week, parshat Vayishlach, candle lighting in Brooklyn,NY will be at 4:11 PM, which is 18 minutes before sunset. Chabad.org has a section of their website which tells you when Shabbat begins in your locality, as well as when it ends on Saturday night. Shabbat ends in Brooklyn this week at 5:13 PM on Saturday night.

In addition to Chabad.org, Aish.com also presents material that can can be printed out and read on Shabbat. Both sites have multimedia suitable for viewing and listening during the week.

The parsha contains a number of interesting components. Most notable is Yaakov’s encounter with his brother Esau. The three facets of his relationship with Esau were prayer for a peaceful resolution, appeasement and preparedness for war. In what measure and in what order to employ these three components has been the question that has occupied the Jewish people for much of its existence. Ultimately, it is by grace of the Almighty that we enjoy any measure of peace at all. Believing as we do that all humans are created by G-d, we do not take war and the potential for loss of life lightly. Although the Torah outlines situations in which war can not be avoided, the decision to go into battle is not taken lightly.

Jacob’s strategic move in this week’s parsha of spreading his family over different locations has been a recurring theme throughout Jewish history. As painful as the exile might be, it has prevented the Jewish people from being concentrated in one location to be destroyed together, G-d forbid.

In this parsha, Binyamin , who was the last of Jacob’s twelve sons was born. In this parsha, therefore, Yaakov’s role as the progenitor of the twelve tribes was fulfilled.

This week is the Torah portion in which Dina, daughter of Yaakov was raped in the city of Shechem. In the aftermath of the attack, the brothers of Dina, the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel, launched a retaliatory attack not only against Shechem, the namesake of the city of Shechem but against the entire town in which the attack occurred.

The commentaries on this episode of the rape of Dina provide psychological insights into the understanding of the trauma of rape victims, who sometimes bond with their assailants. Indeed, the Torah displays a depth of psychological insight in this parsha that modern psychologists and students of human behavior struggle today to reach.

Why was the city punished collectively? And why was this episode included in the Jewish scriptures? The episode raises questions of collective versus individual responsibility that we still struggle to deal with in modern times. Although people sin alone, the society in which they live defines the parameters of what is thinkable and what is beyond the pale.

The entire episode raises questions of the role of a society in creating a climate in which evil can flourish. In some ways, the discussion between Shimon and Levi and their father Yaakov is reminiscent of the dialogue within the Jewish community between Jewish militants and the more tactical mainstream.

One interesting feature of this parsha is the episode in which Yaakov wrestles with the angel, who is in reality the guardian angel of Esav and the nation of Esav. This story is addressed in an article on Chabad.org  called Clash of the Titans. In the article, the concept is mentioned that each nation has its own guardian angel. Whatever implications this may have concerning free will and our connection to G-d, the fact remains that there is much about the created world that is beyond our sight and our understanding. Since Esav and Jacob were progenitors of nations, what happened to them in their lifetimes recurred and shaped the successive generations of history throughout the ages. There is much that can be learned, and many implications of the struggle of Yaakov with Esav’s guardian angel. One lesson that can be learned from the episodes in the lives of our patriarchs is that our actions can have an impact that filters through generations. This lends our choices in life a great deal of importance.

Aish.com has a pictorial feature of synagogues across the Muslim world. This pictorial feature is a vivid reminder of times in the past when relations with the Muslim world were very different from the times we live in today, when so-called Muslim fundamentalists distort and misrepresent the Islamic past in order to fan the flames of hatred. Another article is in memory of Kalman Levine, who was murdered in the Har Nof synagogue massacre. The article puts a human face on what all too many people experienced as a fleeting headline.

May the day speedily come in which the strife between Esav and Yaakov be replaced with an era of peace, in which tragedies such as that of the Har Nof Synagogue massacre will be a thing of the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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