From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of
13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben
14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben
16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe
Alshech of Tsfat
17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya
18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim
"He erected an altar there, and he called it G-d-is-Israel's-Lord"
"...and he called it (lo) E-il-Elokei-Israel."
And by the way of Truth, [that is, the mystic lore of the Kabala, the
verse is to be understood] as being in accord with the Midrash which the
Rabbis have expounded in Tractate Megillah: "Whence do we know that
the Holy One, blessed be He, called Jacob eil? It is said: "And
He -the G-d of Israel - called him 'eil' " There is in this
matter a great secret, which the Sages have additionally mentioned in
Breishit Rabba in another way: "Jacob said to G-d, 'Thou art the
G-d of those on high, and I am the master of those down below.'"
The Sages thereby alluded to that which they constantly say: the likeness
of Jacob is engraved is the Heavenly Throne. The intent [of Jacob's statement
quoted in the Midrash -" I am the master of those down below"-
is that the Divine Glory rests in the Land of Israel. The student learned
in the mystic lore of the Kabala will understand.
"Yaakov sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau to the
Mountain of Seir in the land of Edom." [32:4] These messengers
were actually angels -- Rashi
When analyzing the more mystical aspect of the matter, it is possible
to view these messengers as fulfilling a dual role, i.e. both as Yaakov's
messengers and as G-d's messengers, similarly to Eliezer functioning both
as a celestial messenger when the Torah described him as ish, and as an
ordinary human being, servant of Avraham, when the Torah referred to him
as ha-eved, "the servant." This would account for the
fact that the Torah described the messengers as melachim, although
they were creatures of flesh and blood. Both approaches correspond to
the truth. It is simply a matter of emphasis, i.e. whether we concentrate
on the external aspects of what occurred, i.e. that which was visible
to the physical eye, or whether we concentrate on the more fundamental
aspects of the matter, something not visible to the naked eye.
"And he (Esau) said 'Let us travel on and go; I will go before
you.' He (Yaakov) answered him: 'My lord knows that the children are weak,
and ...the nursing sheep and cattle. If they are driven hard..., all the
sheep will die. Please go ahead of me, my lord. I will lead my group slowly,
following the pace of my work..., and the pace of the children....' 'Let
me put some of my people at your disposal,' said Esau. 'What for?', replied
Yaakov. 'Just let me remain on friendly terms with you.'" [33:12-15]
Esau desired to share the future spiritual rewards in store for Yaakov.
His proposal was to share olam hazeh, the material world. "If
we travel together, we will make progress." Concerning the future,
when Esau was supposed to have dominance, Yaakov being in exile, he says
"I will walk before you," i.e. all alone; I will claim my rights.
Yaakov declined; he preferred to be junior, insignificant, in the early
stages of Jewish history, in order not to fall victim to Esau later on.
He pointed to the fact that if "the sheep (i.e. Israel) are delicate"
now, then at a time of exile, after such a partnership, "the sheep
would surely succumb" totally to the harsh conditions when Esau had
dominance. Therefore, he asks Esau to "please go ahead" and
assume the leadership role already now. Should Esau think that since no
part of this world was reserved for Israel, the latter could never endure
till the future would arrive, Yaakov says that he would "lead his
flock very slowly," at a pace that would enable them to cope with
the problems of the present material world. His support would be "my
work" -Torah- "and the children," i.e. the Torah which
would be studied by innocent youngsters.
Esau pointed out that until Torah would be given, Yaakov would still
be dependent on his goodwill. He therefore offered to "put some of
my people at your disposal." Yaakov declined, saying that though
he might be viewed sympathetically by Esau personally-"Just let me
remain on friendly terms with you."-it was unlikely that Esau's men,
i.e. other gentiles, would view him in that light. It was better therefore
that they each go their separate ways.
"Jacob sent angels ahead of him to his brother Esau, to the land
of Seir, the field of Edom." (32:4)
According to the author of Bereishit Rabba 74:4, the messengers sent
ahead by Jacob were of the flesh and blood variety; other scholars claim
that they were angels. Remember that the struggle between Jacob and his
adversary occurred on two levels: the physical and the spiritual, Esau
in this world and Samael in the celestial regions.
It is even possible to understand the Hebrew word for "angels",
"melachim", as the very merits which Jacob had accumulated.
He "sent" these ahead of him to impress any would-be accuser
in the Heavenly Regions. We have a tradition that every good deed in this
world creates an angel, whereas every sin creates a destructive force.
This idea is expressed in the verse "Your righteousness will walk
ahead of you" (Isaiah 58:8). The word "in front of him"
in our verse (Gen. 32:4) may well allude to this, seeing that the word
is apparently redundant. It would have been enough for the Torah to write:
"Jacob sent messengers to Esau."
"You will not be called Jacob but Israel, etc." [35:10]
We need to understand the difference between when G-d renamed Abram and
when he renamed Jacob.
Berachot 13 states that anyone who calls Abraham Abram nowadays violates
a positive commandment, whereas it is permissible to refer to Jacob as
either Jacob or Israel. Although the rabbis in the Talmud point out that
the Torah itself refers to Israel as Jacob after G-d renamed him, in view
of the fact that we ignore the words "will not be named" when
it comes to Jacob, why should the same rule not apply to Abraham and we
should have the choice of calling him by either name?
Perhaps the very fact that G-d limited the good news when He renamed
Jacob by saying: "your name is Jacob," made this change of name
qualitatively different from that of Abraham at the time. There had been
no need for G-d to repeat "your name is Jacob." Who did not
know this? Surely what G-d meant by this was that Jacob's permanent name
would remain Jacob, but that on some occasions he would be referred to
by an additional name, i.e. Israel.
Why would it bother G-d that we should not refer to Abraham's original
name? I believe there is a very good reason. We have to remember that
a name describe the nature of its bearer's soul, his essence. The Talmud
Berachot 7 illustrates this point. Jacob's essence then is described by
the name Jacob. Whenever he enjoyed a large measure of Holy Spirit he
was referred to as "Israel." There is certainly no reason why
Jacob should be deprived of his original name on account of an occasional
infusion of Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).
It was quite different in the case of Abraham who retained all the letters
of his original name in his expanded name also. This is why G-d commanded
to call him only by his new and expanded name Abraham. By doing so one
did not deny his original name at all.
Perhaps Chronicles I 1:26 refers to this when it states: "Abram
is Abraham." When the Torah said: "your name shall not be called,
etc." the meaning is that it should not be called exclusively Jacob
but also Israel. This is exactly parallel to Genesis 17:5 where Abraham's
name was changed.
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher
and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or
'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in
the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated
English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B.
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The
Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu
Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding
pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple
of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have
been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech,
the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed
in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served
as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as
the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916,
Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the
city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem
and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus
opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book
with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his
formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim:
the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated
by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco,
on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of
Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was
on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker,
hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only
to his Torah commentary.