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Living Time – Vayishlach

Sunday: Katonti – I have been Made Small

In his prayer, Jacob says, “I have been made small by all the kindnesses and all the truth”. In every kindness that G-d does with me, the more that I feel His closeness – the more small I feel. For “everything before Him is as naught” – everything is as nothing and nil before G-d. The more that we feel closer to Him, the more that we feel our own smallness. This is an essential characteristic of the Children of Yisrael. As is written in the Torah, “For you are the smallest of all the nations,” and our Sages explain, “That you make yourselves small.”

Jacob’s statement completely nullifies any negative self-aggrandizement. By doing so, he becomes a ‘chariot’ for the Divine trait of Tiferet, beauty. This is the special character trait of Jacob, ‘Tiferet Yisrael.”

And here is a beautiful numerical hint: The numerical value of Yisrael (541) is the midpoint of Tiferet (1081).


Vayishlach: Monday: The Secret of the Small Vessels

“And Jacob remained alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak”. Our Sages explain that after Jacob transferred all the people in his camp and all his belongings to the other side of the stream, he remembered that he had forgotten “small vessels” and he returned to bring them.

What is the secret of the small vessels? They may look small, but they are very important to Jacob. He endangers himself to retrieve them and because of them he engages in a battle of giants with the man-angel. Ultimately, he merits receiving the name ‘Yisrael’, Israel.

Kabbalah explains that in the “World of Chaos” (Tohu) there are great lights and immature vessels – powerful intensity without the proper vessels to contain it. The concept ‘small vessels’ hints to those immature vessels with intense lights. An example of this type of situation in the world of Torah would be a person who says very cutting, short words of Torah, piercing words of truth in “shorthand” – with no broad explanation that brings the thought into the listener’s mind and heart and gives him practical tools with which to apply it. This is a way to ‘burn the world down’.

People who are more settled, who belong to the World of Rectified Order (Tikun) take exception to extreme statements like that, and justifiably so. But the truth is that we do not give up those small vessels, the intense power of the World of Chaos. Without them, we are missing something very important.

The ultimate goal is to have “The lights of Chaos in Vessels of Rectified Order”, Orot shel tohu b’kelim shel tikun. It is specifically then that Jacob merits the name Yisrael.

And a beautiful numerical hint: The numerical value of Jacob (Ya’akov) יעקב plus small vessels (pachim ktanim) פכים קטנים equals Yisrael.


Vayishlach: Tuesday: The Left Leg

Jacob emerged from the struggle with the angel with a limp from his thigh. Then the sun shone to heal him. The Kabbalists say that the injury was to Jacob’s left leg, which is the place most vulnerable to injury. This injury left a deep impression on Jacob’s soul and his limp is the root of the exile, which is like night. When we are in exile, we limp instead of walking properly.

In the system of sefirot, the left leg represents the sefirah of Hod. In human physiology, the sefirah of Hod is parallel to the immune system. When there is a problem with the immune system, this means that the Hod has been injured, as in the verse, “Hodi ne’hepach alai l’mashchit,” “My Hod has turned itself against me to destroy.” The defect in the immune system is when the body does not distinguish between good cells – “Jacob”, and harmful cells – “Esav”.

A current example of injury to the public immune system relates to Israel’s Army, which is supposed to fight the enemy and protect the Nation of Israel. To our great sorrow, it hesitates to define who is the enemy and to strike him as it should, and on the other hand, the army is sent to expel Jews who are settling the inheritance of our Forefathers. In addition, the blemishes in personal modesty that exist in the army seriously injure our collective immune system.

May it be Hashem’s will that the sun will shine for us and heal us of our limp.


Vayishlach: Wednesday: Slowly

Jacob says to Esav, “And I will conduct myself at my slow pace…until I will come to my master, to Sair”. Jacob goes slowly because on the way to his rectification it is necessary to deal with lengthy clarifications, to stride with patience and thoroughness, without hastiness and jumping ahead.

The meeting between Jacob and Esav took place after the angel had already called Jacob by the name Yisrael. But G-d had not yet changed Jacob’s name, which happened later in this Torah portion, when Jacob came to Beit El. If so, Jacob himself is in the midst of a process of change. He begins to be Yisrael, but is not yet completely Yisrael, and feels that this change must take place relatively slowly.

And here is the beautiful hint to this process in gematria: The numerical value of “And I will conduct myself at my slow pace” – Va’etnahalah l’iti, ואתנהלה לאטי, is the same as the numerical value of Yisrael. I will conduct myself at my slAow pace until I will be Yisrael.


Vayishlach: Thursday: The Rectification of Dinah

“And Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land”. This is the beginning of the difficult story that took place in Shechem. But specifically in this story there is a hidden and deep clarification that cannot take place without the terrible act of rape. It is about things like this that it is written, “Nora alilah al bnei adam”- “Awesome in His machinations on people”.  G-d designs clarifications and rectifications as machinations, as “plots”. He uses our failings and difficulties to advance the ultimate goal. Thus, for example, the Kabbalists say that within the lowly soul of Shechem ben Hamor was hidden a holy spark that was liberated and reached its place (as is explained in the commentary of the holy Or Hachaim).

The first letters of the words of the verse “And Dinah the daughter of Leah went out” – “Vatetzei Dinah bat Leah” – ותצא דינה בת לאה when written in reverse order spell out the word לבדו – levado – by himself. We have already encountered this word in this Torah portion, “and Jacob remained by himself and a man wrestled with him” – “Vayoter Ya’akov levado vaye’avek ish imo” ויותר יעקב לבדו ויאבק איש עמו. Before that verse, we encountered the word levado in a different verse: “Each flock by itself” – “eder eder levado” עדר עדר לבדו (Jacob’s gift to Esav). Jacob has positive existential loneliness. He is the lonely man of faith and we are also “a nation that dwells alone”.

To delve into the meaning of the word levado, we must begin with its first appearance in the Torah: “Lo tov heyot ha’adam levado, e’eseh lo ezer k’negdo” – “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make him a helpmate opposite him.” A person has to emerge from the negative levado, state of being alone, and find his soulmate. Dinah also had to find her soulmate, to emerge from her state of being alone. But the machinations that took place brought her an unsuitable match. Nevertheless, this act ultimately reveals the positive levado of Jacob. This is the blessing of Israel at the end of the Torah: “Vayishkon Yisrael betach badad ein Ya’akov” – “And Israel dwelled securely, alone, the eye of Jacob”. We alone are the Nation of G-d – “Ein od milvado” “there is nothing alone from Him” and we need nothing alone of Him.


Vayishlach: Friday: Migdal Eder

After the death of Rachel and her burial in Beit Lehem, Jacob reaches a place called Migdal Eder (Tower of Flock). Migdal Eder has a distinct messianic meaning, as we learn from the prophecy of Micah: “And you, Migdal Eder, the hill of the daughter of Zion, to you it will come, the first dominion, the kingdom for the daughter of Jerusalem.” In this verse, the intention of Migdal Eder is the King Messiah or Jerusalem and the Holy Temple (as explained by the commentators on the verse). The Midrash says about the verses in our Torah portion that Jacob came to the place where the Mashiach will be revealed at the end of days (Targum Yonatan).

Migdal Eder means the place that gathers in the flock of sheep, similar to the unity of the Nation of Israel in the kingdom of Mashiach, in the rebuilt Jerusalem. Rachel is the force that unites the children. She emerges from her grave and prays for “her children, who are not to be found” and in her merit, “And the children will return to their borders”. Rachel raises the flock. From this we learn that the mitzvah of honoring one’s mother dovetails with the redemption, the coming of the Mashiach and the building of the Holy Temple. Thus, after Rachel dies, Jacob comes to Migdal Eder, to take her place.

It was in Migdal Eder that the sin of Reuven, who wanted to claim the honored place for his mother, Leah transpired. The entire episode is a clarification of the honor of the mother in the Jewish home. Reuven did sin, but the Torah immediately testifies, “And the sons of Jacob were twelve” – the entire flock is complete and prepared for the redemption in Migdal Eder.

By the way, on the 28th of Tevet 5687 (1927) the village called Migdal Eder was established between Jerusalem and Hebron, south of Beit Lehem, in what is today Gush Etzion. The pioneers were G-d fearing people from Jerusalem and the elders of Hebron said to them that they have a tradition that their lands were in the actual Biblical place of Migdal Eder. The village was abandoned after the Arab pogroms of 1929, but in this final generation it was re-settled as the village known today as Bat Ayin.


The translations this week l’ilui nishmat Alteh Necheh bat Chaim Nuta and R’ Elimelech ben Moshe.

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