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Vayishlach(Genesis 32:4-36:43)

Vayishlach 5765

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GOOD MORNING!   Recently I received the following reply in response to my request for a meeting on behalf of Aish HaTorah and what it is accomplishing for the Jewish people:

"Please understand I don't mean to offend you, but I am the wrong guy for all this Jewish stuff. Although I am Jewish, I do not really get that involved with things that go on outside of my home area. I respect what you do, but this is really not for me. I believe by just being a good person it does not matter whatever religion one is. I have lived in this society most of my life amongst many other nationalities and feel very comfortable with my beliefs."

While no one is obliged either to meet with me or contribute to Jewish causes, I believe there is a compelling argument for even the most distant Jew to support Jewish causes if he cares about humanity and the future of the world. I share with you part of my response:

"There is only one reason you would want to meet with me (besides my sparkling personality) - that in your world view you see the value of the Jewish people to making the world a better place and helping all people to live better lives. I strongly believe that the values that you have that commit you to so many causes to help people come from your Jewish roots. Even if our heritage may seem relatively unimportant to you, you can appreciate that the Jewish people have been perhaps the most valuable force through history in creating a better world.

"Below is a quote that you may have seen from Mark Twain. If you are interested I could send you similar quotes from Tolstoy, John Adams, Paul Johnson (a non-Jewish historian).

'If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

'His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

'The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.

'The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal, but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?'

-- Mark Twain, "Concerning the Jews,"
   Harper's Magazine, 1897

I then ended my letter, "If you would like to know the secret of our immortality - and why we have so impacted the world, it would be a pleasure to get together. There is so much that still needs to be done!"

I'll let you know if he decides to meet!


Torah Portion of the Week
Vayishlich

On the trip back to Canaan, Jacob meets his brother Esau; Jacob wrestles with the angel. Then they arrive in Shechem; Shechem, the son of Chamor the Hivite, (heir to the town of Shechem) rapes Jacob's daughter, Dina; Dina's brothers, Shimon and Levy, massacre the men of Shechem; Rebecca (Rivka) dies; God gives Jacob an additional name, "Israel," and reaffirms the blessing to Avraham that the land of Canaan (Israel) will be given to his descendants; Rachel dies after giving birth to Benjamin (Binyomin); Jacob's 12 sons are listed; Isaac dies; Esau's lineage is recorded as is that of Seir the Horite; and lastly ... the succession of the Kings of Edom is chronicled.

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Before meeting his brother Esau (who was coming to kill him), Jacob utilized three strategies: (1) he sent gifts to appease Esau, (2) he prayed for Divine assistance, and (3) he prepared for war. When he finally approached Esau, the Torah tells us:

"And he bowed down to the ground seven times until he reached his brother. And Esau ran to greet him, hugged him, fell on his neck and kissed him. And they cried." (Genesis 33:3-4)

Why was Esau so moved that he no longer desired to kill his brother?

Rashi comments that when Esau saw how Jacob bowed down to him so many times, his feelings of compassion were aroused and he hugged and kissed Jacob.

Jacob had great physical strength and was prepared to fight against Esau, but he still wanted to avoid violence if at all possible. The Sages (Pirkei Avos 4:1) define the truly strong person as one who has control over his own impulses. There are many people who focus on overcoming other people and gaining power over them. However, when it comes to having power over themselves they are weak and even helpless. The desire to fight with others comes from the trait of arrogance and its offshoot, honor-seeking. If a person really wants a true victory, he won't focus on overpowering another person. Rather, he will work on his traits and appear to lower himself before another person. If used wisely, this can bring about peace.

We learn this from Jacob, said Rabbi Yehudah Leib Chasman. He knew that because of his strength he could defeat Esau. However, he also knew that even if one wins a battle, there is a loss to oneself and a loss to the other side. With this self-discipline, and it takes great self-discipline to choose to lower oneself for the sake of peace, Jacob was victorious over Esau.

There is a big difference between a person who bows down to someone out of weakness and another who bows down out of strength. A person with a low self-image gives in to others because he considers himself as nothing. This is a major fault. One needs to be aware of the inherent greatness in every human being, including oneself.

The root of quarrels is arrogance. Use wisdom and strategy when dealing with difficult people. Be aware of your real goals and don't get sidetracked. To make an enemy into a friend is the ultimate goal and a complete victory. This is a victory in which there are only winners and no losers. It takes much strength. That is why it is so elevating!



CANDLE LIGHTING - November 26:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)

Jerusalem  4:01
Guatemala 5:11  Hong Kong 5:20  Honolulu 5:29
J'Burg 6:25  London 3:40  Los Angeles 4:25
Melbourne 6:59  Miami 5:11  Moscow 3:51
New York 4:13  Singapore  6:37



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

The smallest good deed
than the grandest intention .



Mazal Tov to
Maghain Aboth Synagogue
Singapore
on its 125th anniversary




Published: November 20, 2004

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