February 27, 2024
Parashat Vayishlach

When you Choose Shabbat, you choose to learn that every Shabbat is different and special. This week I learned that Parashat Vayishlach (וַיִּשְׁלַח), the eighth weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings, is tied with Parashat Noach for the most verses of any weekly Torah portion in the Book of Genesis (Parashat Miketz has the most letters; Parashat Vayeira has the most words). According to Wikipedia, Vayishlach – Genesis 32:4 through 36:43- contains 7,458 Hebrew letters, 1,972 words, 153 verses and 237 lines of the Torah Scroll.

Vayishlach (וַיִּשְׁלַח‎), translated as “and he sent“, is a story that puts Game of Thrones to shame. It is a tale of the supernatural (Jacob wrestles with an Angel), tension and reconciliation between brothers (Jacob and Esau), rape (Dinah) and revenge (Dinah’s brothers sack the city of Shechem), death and new life (Rachel dies in childbirth to Benjamin).

Rabbi Michael D Klein of Temple Torat Emet offers his insights on this week’s Torah reading Vayishlach for Shabbat December 2, 2023 aka the 19th of Kislev 5784:

“We will be blessed this Shabbat by sharing the Simchah of Shabbat with a Bat-Mitzvah family. Each Bar or Bat Mitzvah student relates how their Torah portion speaks to them. Every student begins their studies with the challenge of learning their Torah and Haftorah portion and sharing how it affected them and how they plan to make an impact in the world. Yaakov, too, faced many challenges enumerated in this week’s Torah portion.

Returning from Charan back to Israel, Yaakov is faced with the realization that he will soon encounter his brother Esau. He is not sure whether Esau will still harbor enmity against him for the perceived wrongs of the past. Yaakov devises a military plan and divides his camp into two halves. Perchance, Esau does attack, at least half of his family will escape harm and complete the journey. He prepares lavish gifts to appease his brother should the reunion be peaceful and then separates himself from the camp to pray for G-d’s intervention.

While he is alone in the night, he is confronted by an angel, who wrestles with him and injures him. The symbolic nature of this struggle allows Yaakov to see well into the future, according to Rambam, and witness the persecutions which would befall his people. He is, however, given the vision that, just like himself prevailing over the angel, the Jewish people would ultimately persevere.

We too, are faced with significant challenges in our time. We must help our people through the current challenges to overcome the sadness of loss that we have faced. Like Yaakov, we know the future is uncertain, but with G-d’s help we can cope with whatever life brings and face the future with positivity. We must always face the challenges that lie ahead with hope that the future will bring an end to suffering and evil.

As Yaakov has taught us, this requires hard work and preparation, and we must always be there emotionally, spiritually, and monetarily to support each other in time of need.”


Questions to Ponder:

  1. Why are Jews forbidden to eat meat from the thigh muscle even of Kosher animals based on the story in Vayishlach?
  2. Why is Yaakov’s name changed to Yisroel after wrestling with the angel?
  3. Why isn’t Dinah mentioned in the reunion of Yaakov and Eisav?
  4. Where did Eisav and Yaakov travel after their reunion? Why not together?

Rabbi Michael D. Klein

Rabbi Michael D. Klein attended Yeshiva College of South Florida and served as Torah Reader, Hebrew teacher, Chazzan and spiritual leader of various synagogues throughout South Florida. In January 2015 he became Ritual Director, Bnai/Bnot Mitzvah instructor and 7th grade Hebrew instructor for Temple Torat Emet of Boynton Beach. In October 2019 he was accepted into an accelerated track and received his shicha from Yeshiva Adath Wolkowisk and has been the Rabbinic leadership of Temple Torat Emet since August 2020. In September of 2022 he was appointed Rabbinic and Spiritual Advisor of the Florida Region of FJMC.

Choose Shabbat; choose to celebrate, to light candles, sing songs and learn a little Torah.

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