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Shiur on Parshat Vayishlach on the secret of Yakov and the name Yisrael and a meditation to sweeten judgment


VaYishlach 5777 “Turning a Foe Into a Friend”

At the beginning of this week’s parsha, Yakov sends angels to bring presents to Esav in order to persuade him to forgive him for receiving the blessing from Yitzchak in his stead.

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The Arizal points out that Yakov sent 550 animals to Esav and that his intention with this present was to uproot the power of evil at the source of Esav. This intention was specifically put into the number of animals(presents) he sent because the numerical value of 550 is עקר ק”ל, to uproot 130. One hundred thirty is the numerical value of the name of the angel of death, the angel which is at the source of and the spiritual representation of Esav.

The Arizal continues and says that the way Yakov was intending to uproot this power of evil, Esav, was by following the instructions we see in Mishlei (25, 21-22)

אִם רָעֵב שׂנַאֲךָ הַאֲכִלֵהוּ לָחֶם וְאִם צָמֵא הַשְׁקֵהוּ מָיִם:
כִּי גֶחָלִים אַתָּה חֹתֶה עַל רֹאשׁוֹ וַיהוָה יְשַׁלֶּם לָךְ:

If your enemy is hungry, feed him bread, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will be scooping coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
This means that the best way we can fight our enemies is from within. We must realize that the only power anyone or anything has on us is how much we allow them to affect our inner state.

We must realize that everything in the world is really only on the outside and that our feelings, our pain or pleasure, are only only a reaction to our internal representation of those things on the outside.

The first step is to sensitize ourselves to this realization and to know that for example, if someone has a phobia of dogs he is not afraid of this specific dog in this specific situation and at this time because there is not any apparent threat here (same thing with a fear of heights).

It is the internal representation, imagining, visualizing and expecting something terrible to happen (maybe because of a past traumatic experience) that causes that phobia.

When we first sensitize ourselves to this realization we can begin to make a distinction between reality, what is really going on here on the outside, and what is going on on the inside. We then create space between ourselves and those feelings of fear (or any other constrictive feelings) and through this awareness and observing mindfulness, we come to recognize our greatest power, the ability to choose in this moment the most appropriate and effective choice int his moment for this situation.

When one encounters difficulties in life, and when one encounters hatred, someone who has done something terrible, the best way to rectify the problem is to first realize that all the pain that one experiences in reaction to this person is on the inside.

The pain is from one’s inner representation of what happened on the outside and that once the outside affliction has ceased, the real damage is only from holding onto those inner representations (imagining, expecting, and visualizing evil/pain continuing to come from that person or situation).

The way to rectify this, explains the Pasuk in Mishlei, is by neutralizing any negative feeling to that enemy on the outside and removing any urges to act in revenge to that person, because that revenge will only perpetuate the inner pain that one is experiencing. Instead, one needs to come to a point where he replaces evil with good, bitterness with sweetness, pain with pleasantness, sickness with health.

In this way, as the Pasuk continues,

כִּי גֶחָלִים אַתָּה חֹתֶה עַל רֹאשׁוֹ וַיהוָה יְשַׁלֶּם לָךְ:

for you will be scooping coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
The pain that he inflicted upon you is only returned upon his head if you neutralize that inner pain, release it, and then sincerely and genuinely send back goodness and sweetness. In this way Hashem will reward you. The Medrash explains on this Pasuk

– אל תקרי ישלם לך, אלא ישלימנו לך.

“Do not read the verse to say “Hashem will reward you”, read it to say “Hashem will rectify him for you”.

[The Arizal (Etz Chaim-Shaar 49)explains that this means that the good in the evil (the Yetzer Hara, the angel of Esav) will be returned to the side of good and the side of bad will be left powerless. This means that the enemy will be left with no evil. He will be clarified and purified from the evil.

Through following these instructions we will merit that Hashem will rectify whatever concealment, mixture of evil, misunderstandings, and lack of clarity which caused that enemy or circumstance to be in resistance to you or your peace.

The Arizal also says that the number of presents Yakov sent Esav, 550, has the numerical value of the word שי עמלק, meaning “A present to Amalek”. As we know Esav represents Amalek. Amalek is a descendent of Esav.

The intention of Yakov here was to give a present to his enemy, as the Pasuk in Mishlei prescribes, and through this Hashem will bring the enemy to make peace with him.

We see that Yakov was successful later on in the Parsha.

We see this when Yakov fought the angel of Esav and won the fight. At the end, Yakov managed to have the angel bless Yakov and call him Yisrael, a name that means victory over the spiritual and the physical aspects of the universe.
Esav’s protecting angel subjugated himself to Yakov and agreed to Yakov keeping the blessing and having the blessings he received from Yitzchak.

This was a tremendous miracle, an amazing accomplishment, and a wonderful kindness from Hashem.

We see that consequently, Esav kissed Yakov when he met him, and as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai explains, the kiss was genuine from the bottom of Esav’s heart.

We must remember that everything Yakov was doing, and everything any of the forefathers did in their lifetime, was to prepare and ease the our lives, their descendants. This is called in the words of our Rabbis:

מעשה אבות סימן לבנים

The actions of the Fathers are a sign for what will be for the children.
Yakov set it up for us that eventually, at the end of days, all our enemies will either make peace with us or be eliminated from existence. All resistance will be dissolved and the side of evil will be rectified.
One practical way to implement this lesson, aside from the obvious, is to wash our fingers with a small amount of water at the end of every meal with bread, right before Birkat Hamazon.

This is called Mayim Acharonim and its kabbalistic reason is to save us from any jealousy of the side of evil. When we eat according to the Torah, with the proper intentions, following the laws of Kashrut, the proper blessings, and the studying of Torah at the table, we are causing such tremendous light and power for Am Yisrael that Esav’s angel may become jealous and come to awaken strife, Heaven forbid. When we give him this tiny amount of water at the end of the meal (not too much so as not to strengthen him) he is appeased and will leave us alone to have and keep the blessings for ourselves.

[This is also the kabbalistic reason for the שעיר לעזאזל of the Yom Kippur service]

May we merit properly implementing this advice of the Torah in the Pasuk in Mishlei to neutralize and rectify all our enemies and all strife and resistance in our lives.

May we merit to draw from the tremendous power in the מעשה אבות of Yakov to bring us peace in our lives, and peace on a global level until the ultimate peace is revealed with the coming of Mashiach and the final redemption speedily in our days Amen!
Shabbat Shalom!



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