|In this week's parsha,
1. We have the interaction between Yaakov and Esav.
2. We have him splitting his camp in two, and
3. being left behind to save the pachim ketanim.
4. Fight with the angel
5. coming to Shechem and
6. Dina's rape, brothers' revenge
7. Yaakov's name is changed to Yisrael, he is blessed
8. Rochel's death and Binyomin's birth.
9. Reuven's sin
10 Yaakov returns home to Yitzchak
11. Yitzchak dies
12. Generations of Esav and his eight kings (hint to the lower 8 sefiros)
1. Why does Yaakov return for the pachim ketanim - the small jugs?
2. Why does the angel fight with him at that very moment?
3. If Yaakov is the ish emes - the man of truth, why does he 'give back' the blessings to Esav, who does not deserve them?
4. What is the difference between Esav's statement 'yesh li rav,' - I have a lot - and Yaakov's statement, 'yesh li kol,' - I have it all?
5. Why is Yaakov's name changed to Yisrael at this point, after all his children are born (or conceived, in Binyomin's case), in contrast to Avraham whose name was changed before conceiving with Yitzchak?
6. What is the concept of 'Yisrael' in this context?
7. What is the difference between the enumeration of Esav's progeny as 'nefashos' - souls, as opposed to Yaakov's progeny as 'nefesh' - one soul?
Interesting to note, as we did two years ago, that Avraham's name is changed before he conceives with Yitzchak. Yaakov's name is changed after all his children are born or at least conceived (Binyomin). Avraham needs to reach a state of completion before he can conceive the Jewish people. Yaakov reaches his completion through the conception of the Jewish people. This indicates two very different roles for these two great people. Avraham, as we have noted, represents the middah of Chessed. It almost seems like he was born with this exalted attribute. Yaakov, on the other hand, is someone who is struggling throughout his life. Avraham also has struggles, but they seem to be points in time, with most of his life dedicated to outreach and bringing Hashem's awareness to the world. Avraham is wealthy seemingly from the onset. For Yaakov, a great effort is involved to obtain his wealth - twenty years of work for Lavan. Avraham receives his wealth in a moment from Pharaoh. Yaakov struggles with the angel all night long, until the morning dawn. It seems very reminiscent of the Yosef and Yehuda personalities; with Avraham corresponding to the Yosef-tzaddik, who is in an exalted place without sin, and Yaakov corresponding to Yehuda/Dovid, who descends to the depths (vayered Yehuda me'echav).
I read an interesting midrash in the yalkut shimoni about a Cuthite who comes to R' Yehoshua ben Korcha and asks why the Jews don't go after the majority, which are non-Jews. He answers the Cuthite by asking him if he has kids. Cuthite responds affirmatively. Cuthite adds that they don't leave the table without beating each other up. Do you join them? Certainly not. We are the same. After the cuthite leaves, the students then ask him what the answer is really. He responds and says that the difference between the Jewish people and the nations of the world is that they are described as Nefashos - many souls. This is the description of Esav and his children. The Jewish people, and specifically the progeny of Yaakov, are described as Nefesh, a single soul.
The message of this midrash seems to be that there is not really power in numbers. The fact that there are so many 'souls' practicing a certain way does not unify them. It is only the Jewish people, the people of Israel, who are described as a single soul. This indicates that they are unified in the true purpose, and that they truly follow the Truth. By extension, that which the Torah says to follow the majority means that one is only to follow the majority if that is indicative of the True Path. When a majority follow falsehood - they are many souls, they are not united as one. When a minority follows the real Truth, they are essentially the majority. This was also what R' Yehoshua told the Cuthite - just because your children, who are more than you, are behaving in a way that is of concern to you, is not a reason to follow their lead. In a sense, you, as the parent, are the place of unity, the source of their disparity and differences. You, as an individual, sense the unity and oneness which they do not. You do not get involved in their dispute. You see things from a broader perspective, a perspective of truth.
I want to speak about surrender to Hashem, giving myself up to His will, and giving myself up to the Truth. Sometimes this can be painful. But it's about facing the truth. I had a young man call me and ask me why I'm not depressed. I answered that I am trying, to the best of my ability, to live in the Truth. This means to be real with who I am and what my boundaries are.
If we look at Yaakov and Esav, we see two people who are complete opposites. Yaakov is called the Ish Emes - the man of truth. Esav lives a life of complete lies. He convinces himself that he is worthy of blessings, when the truth is that his life is one big lie. And yet, as the midrash explains, when Yaakov bowed to Esav, it was essentially a statement that he was admitting that Esav deserved the blessings. He was, in a sense, giving back the blessings to Esav by giving this vast amount of material possessions to Esav.
How could Yaakov have done this? How does this fit into his persona as the ish emes - the man of truth?
The answer seems to be similar to what R' Yehoshua ben Korcha told the Cuthite. Emes is not necessarily what seems on the surface to be true, as in the numbers of people following a certain model of living. One could have a great amount of things, as represented by Esav's nefashos - souls - but still have a small amount of truth. One could have a great amount of material objects - as Esav says, "Yesh li rav - I have a lot." But this plethora of things does not indicate a true greatness. It is the greatness of oneness, a recognition of Truth, which Yaakov expresses in his parallel statement, "Yesh li kol - I have it all." No matter what Yaakov has, he recognizes that it is exactly what Hashem wants him to have for his purpose. He recognizes that sometimes he will have to seemingly give up the blessings themselves in order to be in a state of surrender to Truth. Esav sees the blessings and abundance as an expression of his worthiness. Yaakov sees them as a tool to use in his service of Hashem. Yaakov can realize that Hashem gave them to him in order to give to Esav as a peace offering to earn back his trust. Esav is lost in the quest for more and more - "a lot." Yaakov's quest is for wholeness and completeness, real Truth - he has "it all."
This is why he returns for the pachim ketanim - the small jugs. He understands that everything has an important purpose. This explains a question that one could ask. Why does the angel of Esav specifically come to attack Yaakov when he is alone, returning for the small jugs? Based on what we are saying, it can be explained that Yaakov's return for the jugs represents his appreciation of the fact that everything Hashem gives him is for the purpose of his service of Hashem. Even small jugs are part of the tools he is meant to use for this service. This is because of his awareness of 'yesh li kol.' Esav, however, and therefore his spiritual representation, which is his angel, represent the idea of 'yesh li rav.' Someone who has lots of things does not have any use for small, seemingly insignificant things. Yaakov understands the significance of the smallest thing. Nothing in reality is unimportant. Everything has a special role in serving Hashem (see current lesson in Daas Tevunos DKL502). Esav's angel fights that idea, tooth and nail. Yaakov's appreciation for the small things is precisely because of his deep commitment to Emes. As we have seen previously, this middah gives him the ultimate grasp of how to have the right balance.
His victory over the angel, and his victory over Esav, using the middah of Oneness and Truth, earn him the name of Yisrael. Yisrael is yashar kel - straight to God; and it is yisar kel - lifting God up. Both of these represent the idea that every thing in reality has a single soul - nefesh in the singular - it is rooted in Hashem, going straight to Him, and it represents His honor in the world, it 'lifts God up.'
Yaakov earns this name when he completes the twelve tribes of the Jewish people because for him, in stark contrast to the Cuthite, his children do not represent a fractious version of himself. Through his middah of understanding the true significance of each detail, his offspring have the potential to represent a harmonious whole which is a full expression of his oneness - 'yesh li kol.' Amazingly, they are referred to as "kol nefesh yotzei yerech Yaakov." They are kol - all; and they are nefesh - one soul. Also, they are yotzei yerech Yaakov - they came out of the thigh of Yaakov. The thigh is a reference to the sexual organ, which Yaakov had full mastery over, and was the perfect expression of his complete submission to Hashem, using every small drop (like the pachim ketanim) for the sole purpose of his service of Hashem in bringing the Jewish people into existence