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Tuesday, December 10, 2019 12 Kislev 5780


The first Lubavitch/Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya and Code of Jewish Law, once remarked that a Jew must "live with the times." His son explained the meaning: A Jew must live with the Torah portion of the week - i.e., he must assimilate the lessons of the weekly Torah portion


Jewish Pride
This week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, discusses the confrontation between Jacob and Esav. Esav embodied many elements, both negative and positive, and Jacob’s job was to take all the holiness and leave the rest with Esav. This is the reason why Jacob sent so many presents to Esav. These gifts contained no holiness, and therefore Jacob felt no connection with them. That these items should go to Esav was part of the refinement process.
Rashi in his commentary says that when Jacob met Esav, he sent a message: Im Lavan garti, “I dwelt with Lavan.” Rashi explains that garti in Hebrew consists of the same letters as Taryag, referring to the 613 mitzvos; thus, Jacob’s message to Esav was that he observed the 613 mitzvos while in Lavan’s house. The Rebbe asks: What was the significance in telling Esav, who was certainly not interested in Torah and mitzvos, about Jacob’s good deeds? The Rebbe explains that a Jew has to stand for his principles with great pride. One should neither be embarrassed nor try to speak on what he thinks are the gentile’s terms – because he won’t be believed anyway. Rather, one should speak with the strength of inner conviction. If we are not apologetic, then the non-Jews will respect us. But if we either try to hide our Jewishness or compromise on our beliefs, then the gentiles will lose respect for us. When we demonstrate loyalty to G-d, we show that we are trustworthy in general.
Furthermore, after Jacob received their father’s blessings, Esav was told by Isaac that Jacob would retain his blessing as long as his children remained loyal to Torah. If Jacob would stumble, however, then Esav would receive his blessing. According to Rashi, Jacob wanted to appease Esav, to show him that although Jacob had received the blessing, Esav had become wealthy while Jacob was poor. 
 The question is why Jacob would speak to Esav in a manner that implies that he’s complaining that G-d didn’t do enough for him. In truth, Jacob was giving Esav an entirely different message. Esav’s whole life was geared toward immediate gratification and he received his blessing from Yitzchak in that mode. Jacob, in contrast, had more interest in the future. Jacob pointed out Esav’s success in contrast to his own life, since he had been a stranger, far from home, a lad. Moreover, Jacob would have yet to go into exile for many years before his family would be granted his blessings and the promise of Israel in the future.
 Jacob’s orientation toward the future, and Esav’s focus on this world alone, were even expressed in the way they talked about their families. Jacob mentioned his children first and then his wives, whereas Esav mentioned his wife before his children. Wives represent happiness in the immediate present; children represent the future – the Jewish people, the World to Come, the Messianic Era. Even in their most mundane conversation, each brother revealed his most dearly-held values.

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