Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayishlach
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Yaakov Ben Behora

Parashat Vaishlach

The Double Conflict


Rabbi Jonathan Blass

The struggle between Yaakov and Esav that began in their mother’s womb was waged, according to Rashi (Bereishit 25 22), over who would rule both this world and the world to come. Yaakov believed that both worlds belonged to him because the eternal sanctity of the world to come finds expression also in this world which serves as a corridor to life in the world to come. Esav - whose understanding of eternity detached it from true sanctity - fought to make both worlds his own.

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni Toldot 111) teaches that this prenatal conflict was resolved by awarding this world temporarily to Esav and the world to come to Yaakov. Esav later confirmed this settlement with the sale of his birthright. When Esav saw that Yaakov was returning from Lavan laden with the material blessings of this world, he protested: if God has given Yaakov so much of what is not his domain, how much more will he give Yaakov in the world to come which is his by agreement?

Yaakov, however, did not see the wealth that he amassed outside of the Land of Israel as anything but a means to strengthen his ownership of the Land of Israel. Declaring "the wealth of chutz-la'aretz unworthy of being retained by him" (Rashi Bereishit 46 6), he first used it to bribe Esav and then left it all to Esav in return for Esav’s share in Ma'arat HaMachpela (Tanchuma Vayishlach 11).

By doing so, Yaakov set an example for all times; we today should see material success in Chutz La'aretz as Yaakov saw it: as a means to facilitate Aliya and redeem the Land of Israel.

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