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Divrei Torah From Tzvi Moshe Kantor

Our Parsha opens up with Yaakov's various preperations for his meeting with Eisav. One of the ways Yaakov prepared for the meeting was to call out to Hashem in prayer. If we can analyze the depths of this prayer, we will hopefully come away with a better understanding of how we are attacked by the Yetzer Hara.

When Yaakov cries out to Hashem , he says "Hatzileini Na Mi'Yad Achi Mi'Yad Eisav." Save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav! We know that the Torah does not waste words. So why use a double Lashon? We already know that Eisav is Yaakov's brother. There is seemingly no reason to specify further.

The Chidushei HaRim (as brought in other sources as well) explains that Achi is Eisav’s ability to attack us with closeness and brotherhood. When he is simply referred to as Eisav we are pointing to the sheer physical dominance that he has. The Sfas Emes builds an unbelievable structure that will hopefully grant us some insight. Back in Parshas Toldos when Yitzchak is comparing Yaakov to Eisav he says, Va’HaYadaim Yidei Eisav, The hands are the Hands of Eisav. The Passuk there refers to Eisav’s hands in the plural. This is because Eisav has two separate functions of hands as two separate weapons, thus requiring that they be addressed in the plural. How is this so? When Eisav is growing up he is described in two ways: Ish Yodea Tzayid, Ish Sadeh: A man who knows trapping, a man of the field. The Man who knows trapping is Eisav’s ability to trap with words, to lie and swindle his way into closeness, as he did with Yitzchak. The Man of the field is the manifestation of Eisav as the hunter and murderer - the brute violence of Eisav.

This is the first step to understanding the situation of the repetitious Lashon in our Parsha. "Mi’Yad Achi" - From the hand of my brother, is referring to the tool of Eisav to ensnare us out of closeness. Through appealing to Yaakov (over the span of history) through culture and brotherhood, Eisav destroys the spirituality. And Mi’Yad Eisav the hand of Eisav is the Eisav in different colors: a murderer. In this way Eisav destroys Yaakov of the physical level as we have seen throughout the span of our history as well.

Let’s delve a few levels deeper.

In response to hearing the news that Eisav was coming, Yaakov split all of the families into two camps. The Nesivos Shalom explains that these two camps are going in parallel with two different drachim, modes of Avodas Hashem. The first camp is the camp of pure spirituality; those who cleave to God by living lives of unadulterated purity. The second camp is those who encounter God in the mundane; those who draw holiness into day-to-day activities.

This builds into the system that we are working with! The camp of pure spirituality is the flip-side of Achi Eisav’s attack on holiness has a camp of it’s own. The camp of serving God within the realms of nature is opposite of Eisav’s overpowering physical strength.

The Gemara in Sotah 46a says, ‘Forever it shall be Smol Dochah, V’Yamin Mikareves’ the left hand pushes away and the right hand brings close. In the sefer HaLekach V’HaLibuv Rav Schorr ties this back to our Passuk. The destructive force of the push of the left hand is the physical power of Eisav to damage us. The drawing close that the right hand is the deceitful ways of Achi to ‘culture’ us and corrupt our minds with twisted thoughts and negative Midos, a destruction unto itself.

There are two Psukim in Yeshaya that require examination. The first in 8:10 says “Utzu Eitza V’Sufar, Dabru Davar Vlo Yakum” The nations that arrange conspiracies and battle-plans and they will fall apart, they will speak their piece, but nothing will come of it. The second Passuk in 54:17 says, “Kol Kli Yutzar Eilayich Lo Yitzlach, V’Chol Lashon Tukam Itach L’Mishpat Tarshi’i” Any weapon sharpened against you shall not succeed and any judgmental speech that rises against you, shall you condemn. Perhaps we can surmise that these Psukim fit beautifully into the frame that we have put together up until this point. In the first Passuk we are challenged by the nations with conspiracies and words. In the second we are told of sharpened weapons weapons and speech. It could be that both of these Psukim follow our pattern. Eisav L’Doros (of the generations) tries to get us in two ways. Like we said, on one side he tries to attack us physically and on the other side he attempts ruin the spirituality. On the physical level, the Psukim tell us not to fear of the battle plans and swords - the theme of Ish Sadeh, Eisav as the damaging, left-handed, hunter. On the other side we also need not fear the damaging and corrupting words- the teme of Yodea Tzayid, Eisav as Achi who draws us close, the corrupting cultural brother.

Now we need to take this idea in a totally new direction.

Rav Elchonon Wasserman writes in his letters describing the difference between Chanuka and Purim. In Purim, the enemy came for our bodies. Haman simply wanted us dead. In the story of Chanuka the enemy didn’t want us dead, quite the opposite actually. All the Greeks wanted was to penetrate the barriers of the religion and attempt to indoctrinate Hellenism into Torah-Judaism. He points out further the difference of response of the two attacks. In Purim, where they threatened us physically, we went into Shul, fasted, prayed, and called out to Hashem- all spiritual responses. In the Chanuka story however, when the threat was spiritual, we responded by charging into a physical battle.

The break down of this idea interfaces with our construct flawlessly. The camp of the physical encounter with God is being attacked with the brute strength and force of Eisav on Purim, so Yaakov L'Doros responds with the strength of the camp of spirituality. The camp of pure spirituality is being attacked by Achi on Chanuka so Am Yisrael responds by implementing the worldly powers of the second camp.

What this means is that when the brute strength of our enemies is upon us, we must take the opportunity to turn to Hashem and strengthen on the spiritual level, as we did in Purim. But when it is our Avodas Hashem that is at stake, God places the battle in our hands, as we see on Chanuka.

With Chanuka around the corner, we would do well to take this lesson. The Yetzer Hara constantly fights us with this theme of Achi. With Times-Square-Hollywood-Makeup-Billboard-MTV-Culture bombarding me from every way I turn, I can only take the battle into my own hands. If the situation around me is detrimental to my spiritual growth, it us up to me to change it! It is up to me to walk away! It is up to me to shatter self-destructive behaviors. The world is so enticing, I don’t need this Dvar Torah to make me realize that the dangers of Achi can take everything from me.

On the inside I want holiness. I want closeness to Hashem. I want to feel like I’m living a life of meaning, and Hashem is begging me to make it happen.

Consider this your wake-up call. Don’t wait any longer to fix that problem that you keep delaying taking care of. If we can do this, there is no doubt we will live of meaning raising to greater heights, moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the Redemption!

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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