I. Receiving good from *HaShem.
1. ‘And Yaakov feared very much and he was disturbed’ (*Bereishis 32.8) I heard in the name of the Holy Baal Shem Tov an explanation of the verse, ‘only goodness and mercy should follow you all the days of your life.’ He said that sometimes a person doesn’t really know what is for his own good. [Some things he thinks are not good are really good.] Afterall, who is wise enough to always know what is best for him. And even should HaShem, because of his great love, cause a good thing to pursue him. He might turn his back on it, and run from that which is truly good for him. He does this because he doesn’t know if he shall succeed and have a profit from it. This is what David of HaShem asked with his *Ruach HaKodesh for all of Israel: ‘Only goodness and mercy…'[you should give to Israel.] Which is what You want for my people. However I do not have the understanding to accept them when You give them to me. And even more, I run away from them. Therefore I ask that they should always pursue me so that I can never escape from them. And in the end I will receive them and a blessing will rest in my house. (p. 262 sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings from the Baal Shem Tov.) * * * II. Humility 2. ‘… your name… Yakov, You will no longer be called by the name Yakov …’ (Bereishis 32.429 A person should take upon himself the *midos of humility and lowliness. For that person who doesn’t really have any greatness of character, it is not really hard to be humble. But when a person has with what to consider himself great, and he is also humble this is something. This is a real *avodah. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘Your name Yakov.’ His name Yakov shows that he is lowly and humble. [Yakov comes from the Hebrew word Eikev – the heel of the foot. The most lowly part of a person’s body.] And so the angel blessed him, ‘your name will not be called Yakov, but Yisroel will be your name.’ That means that he will be great because this name indicates that he is one who strives with G-d and wins. And even so he shall still have the name Yakov which shows his humility. This is then the answer to the problem posed in the Talmud. [It is taught there that, from the time that HaShem changed Avram’s name to Avraham, he can no longer be called Avram. And if one were to call him Avram, he would be in violation of a mitzvah. However this is not the case with Yakov. To which the Talmud asks the question:] ‘The one who calls Yakov, ‘Yakov’ should also be in violation…’ But the truth is that the blessing was that he should still have his name of Yakov [i.e. he should still be humble] even though his name has been changed to Yisroel the one who strives with G-d. [Even though he has personal greatness, he continues to be humble and lowly.] (p. 21 sefer Mevasar Tzedek teachings of *Rebbe Yissochar Ber of Zlotchov.) * * * III. The proper fear 3. ‘And Yaakov feared very much and he was disturbed’ (Bereishis 32.8)” We need to understand why the language of the verse appears to be repetitious. [Saying that he feared and that he was disturbed appears to be repeating the same idea.] We can explain it this way. It is not correct for a Jew, and especially a *Tzaddik to have fear of any thing. He should have trust in HaShem and His guidance. If HaShem does not command a thing to occur, it will not happen and no one could do any evil to him. It is however necessary for him to pray to HaShem, and to do *Tshuva with a complete heart. If he does this, then all evil things that could have occurred will be eliminated. This is what the verse is saying: ‘And Yakov feared very much.’ In his heart Yakov felt a fear for his brother Eisav. He realized that this was not the proper thing for him to feel and that something was wrong. Therefore immediately, ‘he was disturbed’. It was disturbing to him that he should have this fear of his brother. (p. 6 sefer Divrei Tzaddikim teachings of Rebbe Dov Berish of Ashpetzeen) * * * IV. Different types of *Yetzer HaRah 4. ‘And Yakov sent messengers to his brother Eisav’ (Bereishis 32.4)” We can explain this verse in this manner. Eisav and Lavan are a *remez for the two types of Yetzer HaRah that effect a person. The first is Eisav who is called Edom [which in Hebrew means red.] This signifies the base desires for things of this physical world that occur in men. [These are things that all can see and recognize that they are evil.] The second is the way of camouflage, [where the Yetzer HaRah tries to hide the sin.] This is the way of Lavan [which means white signifying that it appears as if it were pure. The reality is that they are not pure.] These two types of Yetzer HaRah are symbolized by the part of the body called the esophagus. This is the place where food, being where the power of the Yetzer HaRah first takes hold, enters the body. [The overindulgence in one’s desire for food is where the Yetzer HaRah gets his first hold on a person.] On the outside it is red [Heb. edom] and on the inside it is white [Heb. lavan]. Which is a remez for what I have just said. [Red on the outside refers to the Yetzer HaRah that is seen, and is visible to all. The white on the inside shows that it appears to be pure but the evil in it is hidden from the eye.] The cure for this is learning *Torah which *Chazal call a spice for the Yetzer HaRah. [Just like a spice takes away the bitter taste of a food, or gives it a new taste which makes it edible and sweet, so the Torah removes the bad ‘taste’ of the Yetzer HaRah.] This is what Chazal meant when they said, ‘the Torah was not instructing us except to counter the Yetzer HaRah.’ That is to say that the Torah is what counters the Yetzer HaRah. It not only ‘sweetens’ it, but makes it so that it actually helps one in the service of HaShem, until with HaShem’s help even his enemy [the Yetzer HaRah] makes peace with him. This is the meaning of, ‘Yakov sent messengers.’ These were his Torah learning and prayers. ‘To Eisav his brother.’ With them he was able to make the Yetzer HaRah, Eisav, to be his brother, who helps him in the service of HaShem. Likewise *Rashi says on this verse, ‘with Lavan I sojourned, and the 613 *mitzvos I kept.’ This is as I said above that also Lavan, who is another type of Yetzer HaRah, was turned into a helper for Yakov in doing the 613 mitzvos. It says a little further on, ‘And Yakov arrived at Shalom. [The word Shalom is Hebrew for ‘peace’] This also is as I have explained above. ‘Shalom’ is the same *gematria as ‘Eisav’. This signifies that Yakov overpowered Eisav [his Yetzer HaRah] and ruled over him. [He made peace with it.] He then collected from Eisav all of the holiness that was with him. Therefore it says after this that Yakov built a house, and for his flocks he built Sukkos [huts that are used for the holiday of Sukkos]. This means that all his flocks were raised up to a level of holiness. (p. 61 sefer Mordechai B’Shaar HaMelech
teachings of Rebbe Mordechai [II] of Zavil)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant sinner.
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud 2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.
sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
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