Vayeishev and Chanukah 5779

A kiss from above[1]

והנה אורחת ישמעאלים באה מגלעד וגמליהם נושאים נכאת וצרי ולט הולכים להוריד מצרימה
…behold an Arab[2] caravan was coming from Gilad, and their camels were carrying spices, balm, and lotus; they were taking them to Egypt[3]

The gemarra asks[4] the innocent question: What was the miracle which prompted the establishment of the holiday of Chanukah? It answers that the Greeks, after they conquered the land of Israel, entered the Holy Temple and defiled all the oil that was to be found. When the Jews defeated them, they searched all around for sanctified oil to be used for the Menorah. All they could find was a single vessel that was still sealed. However, there was only enough oil in the vessel to last for one day. They used it anyways, and a miracle happened where the oil lasted for eight days. The following year they established that time of year as a season of rejoicing, with songs of praise and thanks.

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Vayishlach 5779

The double entendre[1]

ויצו אתם לאמר כה תאמרון לאדוני לעשו כה אמר עבדך יעקב עם לבן גרתי ואחר עד עתה ויהי-לי שור וחמור וגו’‏
[Yaakov] commanded [his messengers], saying: “Thus you shall say to my master Eisav: Thus says Yaakov your servant. I dwelled with Lavan, and was delayed until now. I have oxen and donkeys…”[2]

Yaakov feared for his life, and was worried that his brother Eisav was still vengeful. As an appeasement to his potential fury, Yaakov sent Eisav a massive tribute. He sent him dozens of animals to show his submissive attitude towards his journey home. Part of the tribute included sending messengers, who were to send Eisav a message. The thrust of the message was to downplay the blessings which Yaakov “stole” from Eisav. Instead of becoming someone prominent and powerful, Yaakov was a shepherd for his uncle Lavan for twenty-two years. Eisav had no reason to be jealous, as the blessings hadn’t come true.

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Vayeitzei 5779

A fortunate chain of events[1]

וירדף אחריו דרך שבעת ימים וגו’ וישג לבן את-יעקב וגו’‏
[Lavan] chased after [Yaakov] a seven-day journey…and Lavan caught up to Yaakov…[2]

After Yaakov was scammed and abused by his uncle Lavan for over twenty years, he decided to flee with his family back to his homeland. Instead of informing his uncle of their departure, he decided to leave without notice. He was a six-day distance from Lavan before the latter realized what had happened[3]. Lavan chased after Yaakov on the seventh day, and on that very day managed to catch up with him. This is seemingly miraculous. How did Lavan travel so far in one day, something which took Yaakov much longer? This tells us that a miracle happened, and the Earth contracted[4] so that Lavan would catch up to Yaakov[5]. Why didn’t this same miracle happen for Yaakov, so that he would arrive home before Lavan could catch up[6]? Also, why would such a miracle be performed for Lavan, who’s intention was to kill Yaakov[7]?

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Toldos 5779

The delightful smell of betrayal[1]

ויגש וישק לו וירח את ריח בגדיו ויברכהו ויאמר ראה ריח בני כריח שדה וגו’‏‏
[Yaakov] got close and [Yitzchak] kissed him, smelled his clothes, and blessed him. [Yitzchak] said: “See that the scent of my son is like the scent of a field!”…[2]

This week’s parsha describes Rivka and her son Yaakov’s ploy to prevent Eisav from receiving Yitzchak’s blessings. Yitzchak had gone blind, and commanded his son Eisav to prepare a feast for him before the blessings would be given. Rivka, overhearing this, told Yaakov to impersonate Eisav and try to get the blessings himself. She would prepare a feast for Yitzchak, consisting of two goats, while Yaakov would put on Eisav’s prized garments. Since Eisav was hairy, and Yaakov was not, Rivka gave Yaakov goatskins to wear on his arms and neck. This was in case Yitzchak touched Yaakov, so he wouldn’t realize their ploy. Once the preparations were done, Yaakov went to Yitzchak’s tent, pretending to be Eisav.

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