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Vayishlach ~ 5774 ~ וישלח
Jacob, en route to Canaan, sends messengers to Esau with a special greeting of appeasement. They return and inform Jacob that Esau is on his way to meet Jacob with 400 men. Jacob prepares for a possible battle. He sends three waves of servants bearing gifts for Esau and then moves his camp across the Yabbok River. Jacob remains behind whereupon he is attacked and wrestles all night with an unnamed adversary. Upon first light, the “stranger” blesses Jacob by changing his name to “Yisrael”.
Jacob limps due to an injury incurred that night while wrestling with the angel. Upon meeting Esau, Jacob completely subjugates himself to his elder brother, who receives Jacob graciously. Jacob introduces his family to Esau. At first, Esau refuses Jacob’s gifts, but reluctantly accepts them. Esau offers to travel with Jacob or at least to leave behind an escort, but Jacob refuses. On the way to Shechem, Jacob at last feels at ease and settles down to an apparent pastoral lifestyle.
Dina, the daughter of Jacob, is seduced by the Prince of Shechem. Desirous of a tribal merger and to facilitate peace, the entire male population agrees to be circumcised. Shimeon and Levi execute the entire male population on the third day after the circumcision. Jacob, fearful of antagonizing the gentile tribes, rebukes the brothers for their revenge. The family of Jacob purges themselves of all idolatrous things and journey to the place where G-d first appeared to Jacob; there G-d blesses Jacob/Israel again. Rachel dies giving birth to Binyamin. Reuben dishonors his father by interfering with the father’s relationship with his concubine (apparently without any ramifications). Isaac dies and is buried by both Jacob and Esau. The generations of Esau (his descendants) are given in detail. The lineage of Esau continues as a transcript of successive generations.
MAFTIR: Genesis 36:40 – 42 ~ page 134
HAFTARAH: Obadiah 1:1-21 ~ page 135
Obadiah condemns Edom (the nation descended from Esau) for its bitter hatred towards Israel. The Edomites lull themselves into thinking that they are invulnerable but they will be overthrown by their so called allies and destroyed. They deserve punishment because of “the violence done to thy brother Jacob” and for when Jerusalem fell, they took part in the looting and prevented any fugitives from escaping. On the day of G-d’s judgment, their deeds will recoil on their own heads and a reunited Israel will be restored to its former territory.
Parashah Study Questions
1. The phrase Why do you think Jacob refers to the people with him as “slaves” (32:6) when he sends a message to Esau, but otherwise they are referred to as “the people”(v. 32:8)?
2. Do you agree that the proper translation of äøôëà (Achaprah) is correct? What is its Hebrew root word?
3. Does v. 33:2 express Jacob’s favoritism already? Is there an alternative explanation for the appearance of outright partiality?
4. How do you explain Jacob’s saying Esau’s face looks like the “the face of G-d” (v. 33:10)? Is that possible? Does Jacob know what G-d’s face looks like?
5. What are the “strange gods” that Jacob refers to in v.35:2? Where did they come from? Who had them? What was their purpose?