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July 16, 2024

VaYishlach (And Jacob Sent) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion


Genesis, 32:4-36:43
This Week’s Torah Portion | November 10 – November 16, 2013 – Kislev 7 – Kislev 13, 5774

In A Nutshell

In the portion, VaYishlach (And Jacob Sent), Jacob wants to make peace with Esau after running away from him and being with Laban for many years. Esau sends angels to Jacob, and they inform him that Esau is headed toward him with four hundred men.

Jacob is alarmed by the looming encounter, and at night, an angel appears before him. Jacob struggles with it and defeats it, but is hurt in the thigh sinew. The angels alert Jacob that his name has changed as of that moment from Jacob to Israel. When Esau comes, they embrace and make peace, and Jacob moves to the area of Shechem.

Later, the portion speaks of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, who is abducted by Shechem—the son of Hamor, the Hivite—who wants to marry her. Jacob’s sons allow the marriage on condition that all the men in the city perform circumcision. Once they perform the circumcision, Jacob’s sons kill all the men, bring Dinah back, and loot the city.

The Creator instructs Jacob to move to Beit El, where the Creator blesses Jacob with many descendants and the inheritance of the land. At the end of the portion Rachel dies when she delivers her second son, Benjamin. Isaac also dies and is buried by his sons, Esau and Jacob.

 Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman

This portion deals with very deep scrutinies that one makes within the soul in order to correct it from the intention to receive, from its egotistical form. We need these scrutinies for the soul because it was broken in a process known as “the breaking of the vessels,” the ruin.

Once a person achieves the degree of Jacob, which is still a degree of Katnut (infancy), a person discovers that it is impossible to move forward. Having risen above the ego, above the will to receive, and having reached a state of Katnut, called Galgalta and Eynaim, leaves one nothing with which to advance. In order to advance, one must find within oneself additional inclinations, additional broken Kelim (vessels). Upon their correction, the person will be able to rise along with them. In other words, whenever we are in a certain state, we must first descend, mingle with the negative, and only then rise to the positive.

The portion speaks of precisely that state. That is, a person who reaches Jacob’s state and cannot advance further must reconnect with the Esau within—the evil inclination that is still not corrected. Such a person heads toward it despite fearing that the egotistical desire might suddenly overpower, that perhaps he or she will not be able to come out of that state.

This calls for a special preparation. The text narrates that Jacob divides everything, the women, the children, and all the people with him. In other words, one sets one’s desires straight, arranging all of one’s qualities in an internal preparation for the disclosure of the flaws within, in order to properly cope with them.

Questions and Answers

It is written that Jacob comes out with a gift, a prayer, and with war. He prepares every tactic.

True, he divides his entire household. He is told that Esau is headed toward him with four hundred men. Four hundred is a complete measure, four Behinot (discernments), and each Behina (singular of Behinot) is a hundred fold its power.

On the one hand, Jacob fears such power. On the other hand, he knows he has no choice. To advance toward Dvekut (adhesion) with the Creator, he must go through those stages.

At night, Jacob struggles with Esau’s minister and undergoes a special correction, which seems in him as a flaw in the thigh sinew. But he discovers that that flaw actually keeps him. For this reason, he receives a blessing that all the revelations he will have from the part of Esau in him—symbolizing his negative qualities—will appear only in a manner of cause and consequence, to the extent and in the form he can correct without failing. Although additional failures await ahead, such as with Dinah, he is guaranteed that in the end it is precisely the big ego that the Creator has created in him that will assist his progress.

Therefore, following the meeting with Esau, Jacob moves to Shechem equipped with greater forces, and is now about to rise from the degree of Jacob, which is the Katnut of the soul, having only vessels of bestowal, to Gadlut (adulthood), to Israel.

Israel means that all of one’s desires, all the qualities that have appeared thus far are aiming straight to the Creator. One who aims to resemble the Creator, to cling to the Creator, and therefore performs actions in Jacob’s Ladder, reaches a state called Yashar El (straight to God), Ysrael (Israel). Going by another way will be as it is written, “They are all as beasts” (Psalms, 49:13). If we do not engage in correction of the soul using the wisdom of Kabbalah, we are all as the “nations of the world,” as Esau, uncorrected.

Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, is already connected to the next degree. This is why Shechem finds her so attractive. There is rape here, coercion, which means that vessels of bestowal come under the vessels of reception. Although she is in Din (judgment) as her name, Dinah, implies, this great will to receive comes over her. This is why there are only two corrections that Jacob’s sons can perform: the first is the circumcision of Shechem’s sons; the second is killing them, meaning departure of the upper light from within those Kelim, which renders them dead.

What does the looting of the city imply?

A city is a place of the will to receive in Kelim that compel you to detach the will to receive from the light of life. Otherwise you will not shift into correction of the will to receive. In our world, if you kill someone it is considered a felony. In the spiritual world, when the upper force takes all the pleasures from our desires, from our Kelim, removing the sensation of life and vitality, and we feel as though we are dead, that sensation of death helps us achieve life. In this life we connect to the upper light and fill ourselves with eternal pleasures, in attainment of Godliness, and we feel our eternal, complete life.

The killing mentioned in the portion relates to the question why we are killing. It is similar to a person with cancer. That person fights to kill the tumor. Therefore, it depends what type of killing we are talking about, to which discernments within us we relate. In this case, the killing of the city is in one’s best interest; it is a correction.

Would it not be enough to settle for the circumcision?

No. Circumcision is when you divide your desires into good and bad. If after the circumcision there are still desires that cannot be corrected, you must detach them for the time being from the light, and this is the killing. By that you save Dinah, who must be connected to the middle line for the time being, to Jacob, by which he ascends to Beit El (the house of God).

The Creator says to Jacob, “Now you are ready to rise to the next degree, called Beit El.” When Jacob comes there he receives the blessing, vessels of bestowal, the forces with which he can maintain the degree and achieve the revelation of spirituality on that level.

Jacob receives the blessing that the whole earth, the entire desire, will be his. That is, in the end he will gradually be corrected, and then “the whole earth is before you” (Genesis, 13:9). Thus, even if the desires are by and large dominated by other nations, meaning they are not connected to bestowal and love of others, it is still possible to correct them into having the aim to bestow.

The end of the portion speaks of the death of Rachel and Isaac.

Both Esau and Jacob take part in Isaac’s burial. This is the correction of the previous degree, which must be buried. Burial is the construction of the next degree atop the previous one.

Jacob and Esau are conflicting qualities; what does it mean that they embrace?

There are many levels of connection between qualities, even among conflicting qualities. Nearing means an embrace of the right, an embrace of the left, a kiss, a high Zivug (coupling), and a low Zivug, such as “His left is under my head, and his right shall embrace me” (Song of Songs, 2:6). In other words, there are many kinds of correction of the evil inclination.

Jacob is willing to embrace with Esau, to come in contact with him after the corrections he has undergone at night. One who goes through these corrections—in very complicated situations, at night, with Esau’s minister—is ready to cope with the evil inclination, to sort it, and to correct those parts that one can now correct and rise to a higher level.

There are always exits and entrances, like Jacob who leaves and returns to the land of Israel, who escapes Esau, has experiences, and is now strong enough to cope.

What did Jacob go through in Laban’s house?

This is how we come out, degree by degree. If a person is on a certain degree and needs to climb up to the next spiritual degree, that person must take some more of the ego, of one’s will to receive, and correct it into working in order to bestow. The newly corrected desire joins the soul, and thus a person ascends a degree. In the degree that has now grown, a person receives additional revelation of Godliness, greater connection with Godliness, and the ascent continues until a person reaches the final state, where one’s entire soul is corrected.

Why is Jacob certain now that he will have the strength to cope with Esau?

Jacob received a blessing from Esau’s minister; he connected to that force in a similar manner to the story with Laban. He received that strength from the left, and he can correct it into working in order to bestow. It is called a “blessing.” A blessing means that alongside the revelation of the ego comes the upper light, helps a person sort out the will to receive, the new, corrupted desire, and scrutinize which part of the desire can be added to the new state, and which part cannot. Then, with the new addition, a person achieves a new degree.

The Creator blesses Jacob with many children. What does it mean in spirituality?

Many children means that the Creator blesses a person with correcting all of one’s desires, which will rise out of the big Malchut, Malchut of Ein Sof (infinity), out of the entire creation, so one may correct them into working in order to bestow. This is why he is called “Israel,” Yashar El (straight to God), actually dominating the whole of creation, in a tendency toward mutual bestowal.

You Shall Not Plow With an Ox and an Ass

“The only desire of the degrees of impurity is to attack the holy degrees. They all lurked and attacked Jacob, who was holy, as it is written, ‘and Jacob came whole.’ First, the serpent bit him, as it is written, ‘he touched the hollow of his thigh.’ It is said about Esau’s minister that he was riding a serpent. Now the Hamor [ass] bit him, Shechem the son of Hamor, which is the Klipa of the right.”

Zohar for All, VaYishlach (And Jacob Sent), item 146

We must always consider the negative forces as an opportunity to rise to the next degree. There is no evil in the world, not even now with all the troubles and problems that are emerging. The important thing is to know how to use these forces correctly, as the Torah teaches us. Our problem is that we are not working according to the Torah. If we acted according to what the wisdom of Kabbalah explains regarding how to perform these corrections, we would see the world as nothing but opportunities for better states.

Who makes the correction, the Creator or the surrounding light?

The surrounding light makes the correction but the person needs to draw it. Why did we receive this instruction? After all, Torah means instruction. Although the light in it reforms, it follows our drawing, according to our understanding of how we need to be corrected. We must do all the acts of scrutiny, division, and sorting with ourselves and with the general reality, and then ask for the correction. Although we do not have the power of correction, we, like little children, must constantly exert to understand and sort things out as they should be. This is our work.

If angels are forces, what does it mean to struggle with an angel? Is it a person fighting gravity, magnetism?

A person is told—as is written in the abovementioned excerpt from The Zohar—that an angel comes to a person either from the right or from the left. There are different angels that a person must deal with in a certain manner in order to add them to the middle line, called Adam (man).

The important thing is how we relate to the states, correct?

What else is needed? We are in Nature, which in Gematria is Elokim (God). The laws of Nature or the commandments of the Creator are one and the same. The Torah teaches us how to use everything within us, all the elements, qualities, the internal, as well as the external.

Especially now, we are in such a confused world that no one knows what to do; we have no idea what tomorrow will bring and it seems vague and threatening. If people knew what is written about it in the Torah they would understand that we have an opportunity to rise to the next degree, to a completely different level, to the revelation of Godliness. The world is already quite close to a great and special correction.

Is it up to the Creator or up to us?

It is up to us. There is one goal before us, and two ways to get there: the left way is the path of suffering. The right (side) way is the path of Torah, the path of the light that corrects. The left way means going with the rod that develops us and compels us to advance. The right way means drawing the light that reforms.

In any case, our ego, the will to receive, the evil inclination in us, must be corrected. How it will happen depends on the way we will choose and on our understanding that everything that appears is only so we may correct ourselves, meaning to make us draw the light that reforms.

This brings us back to the wisdom of Kabbalah, which we must use because it is the interior of the Torah, the law of truth, the law of the light. And precisely by using it correctly, we can draw the light that reforms. This path will spare us blows because we will advance nicely and easily from degree to degree up Jacob’s ladder.

And Jacob Sent Angels

“‘For He will give His angels charge over you, to keep you.’ When a person arrives in the world, the evil inclination immediately comes along with him and always complains about him, as it is written, ‘sin crouches at the door.’ Sin crouches—this is the evil inclination. ‘At the door’—the door of the womb, meaning as soon as one is born.”

Zohar for All, VaYishlach (And Jacob Sent), item 1

This is how we are born, with a small, self-centered will to receive. Even after we develop, we are still little animals, as it is written, “They are all as beasts” (Psalms, 49:13). Although it appears to us that there are very wicked people in the world, this is not considered wickedness. Wickedness appears when a person truly wants to harm the public, to harm humanity. An ordinary person is neither good nor bad; he is inconsequential. Such a person is operated by Nature, and there is nothing that comes inherently from the person.

Today this evil inclination is appearing throughout the world because Elokim, which in Gematria is Nature, is showing us that the whole world is interconnected, therefore we, too, must be connected. Through this connection we will reach equivalence of form, Dvekut (adhesion) with the Creator. If we resist that connection and act to the contrary, egotistically, becoming more closed within and removed from others, this is precisely how we become wicked.

The evil inclination first appears when the world begins to manifest itself as circular, connected, integral, global. Yet, we have not “jumped in”; we have not united and have not connected. We are still immersed in our egos, in the evil inclination, the exact opposite of the condition that the Creator is presenting before us.

We are at the threshold of destruction, yet people will not change their views.

This is the problem. This is why the wisdom of Kabbalah is surfacing after thousands of years in concealment. The idea is that through it the people of Israel will understand that it has a very important role to play, being “a light for the nations” (Isaiah, 42:6), and that it must correct itself. We are merely a transition for the correction of the entire world. If we do not realize the correction in time, the whole world will demand it of the Jews without even knowing why, and hatred toward Jews will intensify. Therefore, we should act fast.

What exactly is it that we need to correct?

We need to be a society that is conducted in mutual guarantee, living by the conditions that existed at the foot of Mount Sinai, where all are ready to unite “as one man with one heart.” Thus we will become a nation, and only under that condition will we continue to exist.

For now, we truly exist by the grace of God, “on probation,” until we implement it, as mentioned in Baal HaSulam’s essay, “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar.” But our time might run out and we will receive no further extensions, and then we will not be able to live in the land of Israel; we will have to flee because this land will reject us once again, as it is written in the Torah, in The Zohar, and in many other places.[1]

Today we have a great opportunity, when we all demand the correction in the world. Although we do not know what it is, we, as owners of the method and as the ones in possession of the Torah, must reveal it to everyone, but first and foremost to ourselves. This is why we must unite, be “as one man with one heart,” connect together as a nation, connect to Yashar El, and be “the nation of Israel.” We need to grip to the middle line and begin to rise with it toward Dvekut with the Creator, toward greater and greater bonding between us in “love your neighbor as yourself,” brotherly love. Once we have lost that love, the Temple was ruined, so we must return to that state and pull after us the rest of humanity.

So is Jacob connection and Esau separation, and is our task to overcome separation through connection?

Precisely. These are two conflicting forces, and we need to “enthrone” the Jacob in us over the Esau in us, and do the same in our society. People need to understand the message, the essence, the purpose of this conflict, and act accordingly.

If You Faint in the Day of Adversity

“But one out of a thousand is the evil inclination, which is one of those 1,000 damagers, which stand at the left, because he rises up and takes permission, and subsequently descends and puts to death. Hence, if a man walks on the path of truth, that evil inclination becomes his slave, as it is written, ‘Better is he that is a lowly one who has a servant.’ At that time, he rises and becomes an advocate and speaks before the Creator in favor of the man.”

Zohar for All, VaYishlach (And Jacob Sent), item 185

[1] https://www.kabbalahblog.info/2013/11/glossary-vayishlach-and-jacob-sent-parsha-weekly-torah-portion/#[1]“When Israel do not engage in Torah, the left intensifies and the power of the idol worshipping nations grows. They suckle from the left, rule over Israel, and inflict upon them laws that they cannot endure. Because of that, Israel were exiled and scattered among the nations” (Zohar for All, BeShalach (When Pharaoh Sent), item 306).

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