|Questions and Concepts for Parsha Va'yishlach
1. In Genesis 32:4 we are told that Jacob sent "messengers" ahead to meet his brother Esau. Some of the sages interpret this as "divine messengers" - that being angels. This is partly drawn from the previous parsha where are told of the two camps of angels that were present with Jacob at this time. (One group leaving him upon his entry into Israel, and the other taking over.)
2. Jacob's instructions for his messengers show him as being as "kind as a dove" as well as "wise as a serpent." He specifically mentions how he had been living with Lavan to show how the blessing he had been promised by Isaac had not been fulfilled. (Thus hoping to lessen Esau's anger over having been "tricked" out of this.) Their report to Jacob however, does not bring good tidings. Esau is clearly coming for revenge as he is accompanied by 400 men.
4. Jacob engages in a most peculiar "wrestling match." Jewish and Christian traditions differ greatly regarding the interpretation of who Jacob is wresting with and why. Christianity often regards this angel as some type of pre-birth appearance of Yeshua and/or "God Himself." Jewish tradition holds a very opposing view, that this being is Samael, the guardian angel of Esau and incarnation of evil.
Contrasting these positions we have the following:
What this wrestling ("entwining") episode is in reality is a the defeat of Esau in the spiritual realm prior to that in the physical. The angel is forced to concede any lingering claims he (and/or Esau) have on the birthright. This is the "blessing" the angels confers on Jacob. ("Blessing" = to increase, and Jacob is increased [and Esau diminished] by this blessing.) The result in the physical realm is that when Esau meets Jacob, he does try to kill him, but surprises him by greeting him warmly. The battle had already been decided in the spiritual realm.
5. In chapter 34 we have the story of the rape of Dinah and subsequent act of revenge perpetrated by two of Jacob's sons. Were the actions of Simeon and Levi justified and correct or not? Consider that elsewhere in Torah, Phincas, the grandson of Aaron take it upon himself to kill two people for sinning and God speaks highly of him - calling him His "peacemaker." As for the men of Shechem, did they not have ulterior motives in offering to "merge" with Israel as they saw how they would financially benefit from this? Did they not also fail to properly punish the rapist within a reasonable amount of time? Despite these arguments, Jacob is clearly upset at the actions of his sons. Is his position correct? Are Jacob's sons guilty of not seeking righteousness in a righteous manner? What about the final argument of the sons in 34:31? Is God "silent" on this issue?
This is reflected in the three steps he takes in dealing with the approach of Esau:
Compare the above to the command in Deuteronomy 6:4 to love God with our heart (prayer and emotions), minds (intellectual discernment) and strength (physical giving).
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