Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"He erected an altar there, and he called it G-d-is-Israel's-Lord" [33:20]

"...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.


Rabbeinu Bachya

"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."

Ohr HaChayim

"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.


Ramban - credits
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. Chavel

Bachya - credits
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.

Alsheich - credits
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)

Shelah - credits
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 Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
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.

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