The news since Simchas Torah has been downright frightening. Twelve hundred innocent people were killed just because they were Jews. They weren’t just killed. They were brutalized in a most gruesome manner. Hundreds more were wounded. Some 240 were captured and brought back to the terror swamp that is Gaza, to be held in primitive conditions.
After an initial, fleeting, sympathy phase, the world reverted to its ancient hatred of Jewish people of all types. Political, industrial and educational leaders began bashing Israel for defending itself and battling its despicable enemy according to the rules of engagement. Huge public protests were quick to follow, with Muslims, students and leftists around the world marching against Israel’s “genocide.”
Though Israel’s loss was clearly evident, as was the ability to understand that no nation could tolerate the barbarism visited upon it by nearby savages, the world didn’t and doesn’t care. No matter what happens, Israel is always wrong and the Jews are always guilty.
And now, while Jews in Israel and around the world celebrate the homecoming of elderly women and young children who never hurt anyone, Palestinians are rejoicing over the return of their peers who failed in their missions to kill Jews.
The early Zionists believed that anti-Semitism was rooted in the statelessness of the Jewish people. If they would have a state of their own, not only would the world respect them, but they would also be able to defend themselves and fight back against enemies of the Jewish people. They would have an army and police of their own, statesmen, and all the trappings of a regular, normal country. They would no longer be knocked about from country to country. They would finally have a stable and safe home.
But it was not to be. After sacrificing much Jewish blood and continuously raising money around the world to fund their enterprise, it didn’t work as planned. The inbred, senseless hatred is still there, as strong as ever, just waiting for an excuse to erupt.
As Shlomo Hamelech proclaimed thousands of years ago, “Ein kol chodosh tachas hashomesh – There is nothing new under the sun.” Whatever was will be again. Indeed, time has borne out the wisdom of his statement.
The Ramban writes in his introduction to Parshas Vayishlach that the parsha “was written to show that Hashem saved his servant from someone stronger than him… The parsha contains an indication for future generations, for all that occurred between Yaakov and Eisov will occur to us with Eisov’s children [and we need to know that we should follow the path of our forefather Yaakov].”
It is often recounted that Vayishlach helps guide our lives in golus. The Midrash discusses how the chachomim who traveled to Rome for negotiations and deliberations with the political rulers of Eretz Yisroel in their day studied this parsha prior to setting out on their precarious journeys. To succeed in their missions, they studied the first encounter between Yaakov as an av and Eisov as a force in his own right. The lessons learned from the exchange between Yaakov and Eisov guided the chachomim in their interactions with Eisov’s offspring.
The Maharal (Derech Chaim 5) teaches that the experiences of each of the three avos parallels different periods in Jewish history. Yaakov, he says, corresponds to the final golus of Edom in which we find ourselves today. And just as Yaakov Avinu traveled a difficult, dark path until he reached peace, so will we, his descendants, travel a lengthy, bumpy road through the exile before we reach the eventual eternal peace and joy.
The pesukim in this week’s parsha tell the story of the eternal battle between the forces of kedusha and tumah, good and evil. That same conflict forms our mission communally as Am Yisroel and individually as bnei Torah, regularly forced to choose between right and wrong and fight for it.
As the sun started to rise and the battle between Yaakov and Eisov’s malach wound down, the malach asked Yaakov to let him return to his heavenly home. Rashi explains, based upon the Gemara in Maseches Chullin, that Eisov’s malach had to say shirah that day and that was pressing him to return.
The passage is commonly understood to mean that it just happened to be that this day was the one that was predetermined for this particular malach to say shirah. He begged Yaakov to release him, because he had been waiting since the beginning of time for this day.
Rav Chaim Soloveitchik understood the malach’s request on a higher level. He explained that it wasn’t mere happenstance that the malach would be singing shirah that day. Shirah is sung when a mission has been fulfilled and shleimus has been achieved.
The task of Eisov’s angel, who is the Soton and the yeitzer hora, is to struggle with the forces of good – and to lose. His task is to provide the challenge for the good people to overcome evil and for the good to overcome the challenge.
This is because everything in this world was created to bring about and to increase kevod Shomayim. Evil and the forces of evil were also created for this purpose. They accomplish their mission when they provide tough challenges for the forces of good. When the good beats them back, then kevod Shomayim increases and evil, and the forces of evil, have done what they were created to do. When that happens, they sing shirah.
But until that fateful night, the malach of evil had not fulfilled his shlichus, for every time, the power of tov was unable to beat him back. Each time there was an epic battle, the force of evil prevailed over the forces of good and the malach wasn’t able to bring about kevod Shomayim. Since until the showdown with Yaakov he had not achieved the purpose for which he was created, he was not yet able to sing shirah.
When Yaakov Avinu was victorious, the malach’s destiny was realized. He had fought hard, but the koach of good had won. He was now worthy of singing the shiras Hashem, because by losing, he had fulfilled his mission.
Times are tough. There is so much evil, and right now the evil seems to have the upper hand. The world is mostly united against the Jewish state, and even the countries that stand by it do so because they think that it will enable them to force upon Israel an evil enemy state on its border.
There is much confusion on many fronts and people lack a clear vision or understanding of where they should be and on which side of which fence they should stand.
Additionally, as the day of the geulah approaches, the Soton devises difficult vices with which to challenge us. The confrontations and challenges become increasingly tough, and people are ready to just give up and allow the forces of evil that plague us to win.
We cannot let that happen. We have to summon our inner strengths and find within us resources of energy and resilience to stay on the right side, just as Yaakov did.
And just as the sun rose for Yaakov and he was able to withstand Eisov, his son and his malach and safely return home with his family, so will it be for us. After the battles with the Soton, after enduring the chicanery of Lovon and the depravity of Eisov, Yaakov merits tranquility. And so shall we.
Yaakov later led his children into golus, instilling in them the qualities that they would need to persevere and thrive through a long exile. Yaakov’s experiences guide us, his children, through a long and bitter journey through many nations, and they remain as true today as they were in previous periods of our history.
Beneath all their veneers, the children of Eisov we deal with today in Golus Edom embody the same characteristics as their grandfather Eisov. Sometimes they present themselves as achim, brothers, concerned about our welfare, and other times their evil intentions are more readily apparent.
The Baal Haturim in Parshas Toldos (25:25) calculates that the numerical equivalent of Eisov is shalom, peace. Perhaps we can understand the significance of this gematria by noting that even when Eisov seeks to do battle, he presents himself as a man of peace.
He speaks in peaceful tones and his actions appear to be motivated by a desire to spread peace and brotherhood in the world. He presents himself as an intelligent, thoughtful person. Many people are impressed by his cunning.
These days, people review and post clips and photos of the mainstream media’s reporting on Israel and become frustrated when they note how prejudiced the media is and how the reporting is dishonest and twisted to support Hamas and its cause.
When Hamas sent out a picture of a bombed parking lot and claimed that Israel had bombed the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, killing hundreds of people there and wounding many more, the world took their world for it. Although Israel denied it and the only proof was the word of Hamas and the photos they distributed, the world accepted the claims of a barbaric, murderous group and blasted them everywhere. The picture they painted in the psyche of the world can never be erased. Furious demonstrations erupted around the world. Leaders were quick to condemn Israel, and by the time it became impossible to continue to claim that the hospital had been blown up, they moved on to the next lie.
As Israel reported that that very hospital was a Hamas headquarters with labyrinths of tunnels containing command posts and weapons, the very same media mocked Israel for making up stories to justify their genocide of innocent civilians. It wasn’t until Israel, America’s only trustworthy ally in the region, brought mainstream reporters to the tunnels that they accepted what has been a known fact for many years.
But they continue to publish daily the casualty numbers Hamas provides for the number of civilian deaths caused by Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombing, when it is well-known that Israel warned everyone to leave the area and goes out of its way to spare civilian lives whenever possible.
The examples of the hatred for the Jews abound. We’ll just cite another few. As the hostages were freed at the Rafah Crossing, the leaders of Spain and Belgium arrived at that spot to condemn Israel. Is there anything more hypocritical?
The American administration is much better than they are, and is providing immeasurable assistance to Israel, but President Joe Biden continues to insist that when the war is over – and he’s doing his best to bring it to a quick end – a state will be established for the Palestinians.
After all that has happened in Gaza since Israel left there in 2005 and handed it to the Palestinian Authority, and the people voted in democratic elections for Hamas to rule over them, creating a terror state and a base for attacks on Israel, the fiction continues: Reward a murderous, treacherous group that has no honest right to a state with just that – a state from which to terrorize Israel and then the West.
President Biden said this week that he is doing his best to end the war quickly and so once again the United States is working to snatch a ceasefire from the jaws of an Israeli victory, as they have been doing since Israel’s founding. And if doing so will lead the Israeli people to topple Netanyahu for not following through on his promise to totally wipe out Hamas, Biden and his gang will be even happier.
If we accept that this is our role and fate in golus, that we are on the same journey that Yaakov Avinu was on, then it becomes more bearable and understandable.
Ein kol chodosh tachas hashemesh.
Just as their grandfather, Eisov, using the banner of peace, with niceties and catch-phrases, his grandchildren betray their arrogance and anti-Semitism, disguised as concern for justice, calling for a lasting ceasefire. Some march in the streets with banners, while others use diplomatic double-talk to prevent Israel from taking down terrorists who aim for them as well.
We must remember that they are all tools of Hashem to somehow create kevod Shomayim in ways yet to be seen. They are here to perform a mission, to help us strengthen kedusha and defeat tumah. They are here to present challenges to the bnei Yaakov, so that we can overcome them and triumph. As the bnei Eisov perform their shlichus, we have to perform ours and do what we can for the koach hatov to achieve supremacy over the koach hora.
The pattern of Yisroel bein ha’amim is symbolized by the struggle between Yaakov and the sar of Eisov, which ended when the sun rose. The Torah reports, “Vayizrach lo hashemesh vehu tzoleia al yereicho – The sun rose and Yaakov was limping.” He limped, but the sun shone. Good triumphed over the evil.
“Al kein lo yochlu Bnei Yisroel es gid hanosheh.” The Torah commands us not to eat the gid hanosheh, to remember that although Eisov and his men can hurt us, and they certainly have, if we remain strong and loyal to the precepts of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov as expressed in the Torah and handed down throughout the ages by Chazal, the Gaonim, the Rishonim, the Acharonim, our rabbeim, our grandparents and our parents, we will merit real peace and a brightened world, ohr chodosh al Tzion to’ir v’nizkeh chulonu meheirah le’oro, with the coming of Moshiach very soon.