Signs of Times to Come

מרן הגאב"ד שליט"א
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The Ramban writes in his introduction to this week’s parsha:

 

נכתבה הפרשה הזאת להודיע כי הציל הקב"ה את עבדו וגאלו מיד חזק ממנו, וישלח מלאך ויצילהו. וללמדנו עוד שהוא לא בטח בצדקתו והשתדל בהצלה בכל יכלתו. ויש בה עוד רמז לדורות כי כל אשר אירע לאבינו עם עשו אחיו יארע לנו תמיד עם בני עשו, וראוי לנו לאחז בדרכו של צדיק שנזמין עצמנו לשלשת הדברים שהזמין הוא את עצמו, לתפלה ולדורון ולהצלה בדרך מלחמה, לברוח ולהנצל.

This parsha was written to reveal how Hashem rescued His servant Yaakov from a force mightier than he, and sent His angel to protect him.  The parsha further teaches us that Yaakov did not rely on the merit of his righteousness, but pursued every practical means to his salvation.  Moreover, the parsha is a symbol for generations to come, since everything that occurred to our Forefather in his struggle against Eisav is destined to occur to us in our own struggles against Eisav’s heirs.  It is therefore fitting that we follow the example set by the tzaddik, by preparing ourselves with prayer (as Yaakov prayed), gifts (as Yaakov sent gifts to Eisav), and military tactics (as Yaakov divided his family into two camps, so that one could escape if Eisav were to strike the other).

The Ramban stresses the practical lessons we must glean from the deeds of our Forefathers, which were recorded in the Torah to guide us in all our ways.  Specifically in the case of Yaakov’s struggle against Eisav, the Torah provides us with a survival guide for our long, bitter sojourn in Golus.  There are times when we can bribe our enemies to loosen their cruel grasp upon us.  There are times when tactical maneuvers can prove efficient.  And there are times when our only hope is prayer.

In addition to the practical message contained herein, we also learn of the great reservoir of merit that Yaakov left for his descendants.  We draw from his great merit, when our own merit would prove insufficient.

The Ramban further explains that with every preparation Yaakov made for his confrontation with Eisav, he included a prayer that Hashem may rescue his descendants from Eisav’s heirs.

"ויאמר אם יבוא עשו אל המחנה האחת והכהו והיה המחנה הנשאר לפליטה" - והכונה בזה, כי יעקב יודע שאין זרעו כלו נופל ביד עשו, אם כן ינצל המחנה האחד על כל פנים.  וגם זה ירמוז שלא יגזרו עלינו בני עשו למחות את שמנו, אבל יעשו רעות עם קצתנו בקצת הארצות שלהם, מלך אחד מהם גוזר בארצו על ממוננו או על גופנו, ומלך אחר מרחם במקומו ומציל הפלטים. וכך אמרו בבראשית רבה אם יבא עשו אל המחנה האחת והכהו, אלו אחינו שבדרום, והיה המחנה הנשאר לפלטה, אלו אחינו שבגולה. ראו כי גם לדורות תרמוז זאת הפרשה.

Yaakov said: If Eisav approaches one camp to attack it, the other camp will escape.”  Yaakov realized that Hashem would never let all his children be destroyed by Eisav.  At the very least, one camp would survive.  This was an indication that Eisav’s descendants would never be able to eradicate the name of Israel.  They may harm a portion of us in some of their lands, but when one king passes a harsh decree against our possessions or our lives, another king will have mercy on us, and rescue the refugees that escape to his land.  Thus, the Midrash explains this verse, “If Eisav approaches one camp” – our brethren in southern Israel, “the other camp will escape” - our brethren in the Diaspora.[1]  As such, this parsha serves as an omen for generations to come.[2]

Later in the parsha, we find another hint for the future:

"ויתן ביד עבדיו עדר עדר לבדו ויאמר אל עבדיו עברו לפני ורוח תשימו בין עדר ובין עדר."  וסברו בבראשית רבה שיש בזה רמז, אמר יעקב לפני הקב"ה רבונו של עולם אם יהיו צרות באות על בני לא תביא אותן זו אחר זו אלא הרוח להם מצרותיהם. עשה רמז שיהיו המסים והארנוניות שיגבו בני עשו מזרעו ברוח והפרש בין זו לזו.

“He placed in the hands of his servants one flock at a time, and said to his servants: ‘Go before me, and leave a space between one flock and the next.’”  The Midrash finds in this another sign.  Yaakov prayed before Hashem saying: “Master of the Universe!  If suffering must befall my children, do not bring it upon them all at once.  Give them time to recover between one blow and the next.”[3]  This was an assurance that Yaakov’s descendants would have time to recuperate between the weighty taxes that Eisav’s descendants would level upon them.[4]

A third hint is found in this next verse:

"יעבר נא אדני לפני עבדו ואני אתנהלה לאטי לרגל המלאכה אשר לפני ולרגל הילדים עד אשר אבא אל אדני שעירה."  ועוד להם מדרש אחר שיקים דברו לימות המשיח, שנאמר "ועלו מושיעים בהר ציון לשפוט את הר עשו", יאמר כי המושיעים אשר בהר ציון יעלו לשפוט את הר עשו.

“Let my master pass before me, and I will continue on at the slow pace of my herd and children, until I meet up with my master in Se’ir.”  The Midrash explains that Yaakov is destined to meet up again with Eisav in the Era of Moshiach.[5]  Regarding this, the verse states, “The redeemers will ascend Mount Tzion to judge Mount Eisav. [6][7]

When Yaakov assured Eisav that they would meet again, he lifted his eyes towards Heaven in prayer, that Moshiach would one day arrive to lead his descendants into battle against Eisav and the forces of the yetzer hara that he represents, to cleanse the world of evil, and herald a new era in which the conclusion of this verse will be fulfilled והיתה לה' המלוכה - “And the kingship shall be Hashem’s.”  May it be soon and in our days.

 

 

2.

Emulating our Forefathers

      In order to draw from the reservoir of  eternal merit that our Forefathers created, we must try to the best of our ability to emulate their ways, and walk on the path that they paved.  Accordingly, we learn in Tanna D’Vei Eliyahu that each person is obligated to ask himself: מתי יגיעו מעשי למעשי אבותי “When will my deeds reach those of my fathers?”[8]

R’ Yisrael of Ruzhin explained that we cannot actually hope to equal their greatness, but we must at least aspire that our deeds may resemble theirs.  However, perhaps we may argue that it is indeed possible for our deeds to match theirs to some extent, not due to our own righteousness, but due to the great reserves of moral and spiritual determination that they instilled in our nation.  By clearing the path for us to follow, the Avos allowed us to climb after them to their towering heights of holiness.  They stretch their hands down from Heaven, and if we only reach up as high as we can, they will grasp hold of us to pull us up to their level.

One trait we must learn from our Forefathers is diligence in Torah study.  The Gemara states that ever since the days of our Forefathers, there have always been yeshivos among the Jewish people.  Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov all headed yeshivos, where they disseminated Hashem’s holy Torah. [9]

The Chida writes that the Avos would study Torah for fifteen hours each day.[10]  My revered mentor, the Tzanzer Rebbe zt”l, would add that it is impossible to presume that our Forefathers wasted nine precious hours of each day, without studying Torah.  Rather, he explained based on the Gemara which states that the pious would prepare for prayer for one hour, pray for an hour, and pause for an hour after prayer.  Accordingly, the Avos spent nine hours in prayer each day, three hours for each prayer – leaving only fifteen hours left for them to study Torah.

Accordingly, we can well understand why the Chida himself writes elsewhere that they contemplated Torah wisdom even as they dreamed.  Otherwise, they could not fill their quota of fifteen hours a day.

In any case, we see from here that Torah study has been the cornerstone of Jewish observance ever since the days of our Forefathers.  Although we cannot hope to match their fifteen hours a day of study, we can and must learn from their example to utilize our time and resources to the best of our ability, in wholehearted dedication to the holy Torah.

3.

The Pillar of Torah

The world is supported by three pillars: Torah, Avodah (prayer and sacrifice), and Acts of Kindness.[11]  The Zohar adds that each of the three Avos symbolized a different pillar.[12]  Avraham symbolized the pillar of Kindness, by graciously welcoming guests into his home.  Yitzchak symbolized the pillar of Avodah, by offering himself as a sacrifice.  Yaakov symbolized the pillar of Torah, with his unflagging diligence in Torah study.

Five times throughout the Torah Yaakov’s name is spelled יעקוב, with an extra vav; while five times Eliyahu HaNavi’s name is spelled אליה, with the vav missing.  Our Sages explain that Yaakov took the letter vav from Eliyahu’s name as collateral, to assure that Eliyahu would come to herald the redemption of Yaakov’s children.[13]

The commentaries offer several explanations why this hint was repeated five times.  R’ Eliyahu Mizrachi explains that the five vavs represent the Five Books of the Torah.  It was as if Yaakov made Eliyahu swear on a Sefer Torah (just as an oath is administered in Beis Din) that he would come to redeem Yaakov’s children.  The Maharal, on the other hand explains that the five vavs represent five fingers, as if to say that Yaakov and Eliyahu shook hands on this deal.[14]

Perhaps on a deeper level this comes to teach us that although Eliyahu will be the one who comes to herald the redemption, Yaakov will be the one to bring the redemption about, in the merit of his own diligence in Torah study, and the diligence he inspires in his descendants.

The melava malka meal on motza’ei Shabbos is dedicated in memory of David HaMelech.  During this meal, it is customary to sing songs about Eliyahu HaNavi, as well as the song “Do Not Fear, My Servant Yaakov.”   We sing for Yaakov, that he need not fear for the fate of his descendants.  Eliyahu will one day fulfill his vow, and herald the redemption, when the scion of David will at long last come to redeem us.  May it be soon and in our days.


[1] Bereishis Rabbah 76:3

[2] Ramban, Bereishis 32:9

[3] Bereishis Rabbah 75:13

[4] Ramban, Bereishis 32:17

[5] Bereishis Rabbah 78:14

[6] Ovadiah 1:21

[7] Ramban, Bereishis 33:14

[8] Tanna D’Vei Eliyahu ch. 25

[9] Yoma 28b

[10] Midbar Kideimos: Aleph

[11] Avos 1:2

[12] Zohar I, p, 146

[13] Rashi, Vayikra 26:42

[14] Gur Aryeh, ibid