December 11, 2018 ~ Shabbat VAYIGASH. Maqam BAYAT.

Shabbat Vayishlah - שבת וישלח

Maqam SABA / SIGAH

Israel

כי אם ישראל יהיה שמך - Having many challenges in life should not define a person. It is how one deals with them that will ultimately determine ones legacy. By all accounts, our forefather, Jacob, was dealt with an unusually difficult set of circumstances. Whether it be surviving a brutal exile, being exploited by his relative, or suffering from family disharmony, it is his perseverance in all of these areas that has earned him the new title "Israel." The name 'Israel' represents someone who faces struggles, with both God (spiritual) and with people (physical), but who comes out victorious. Regarding the ongoing dispute with his brother, we see that Jacob recognized that he could not continue living in a state of war and that it was best to move on by making peace. It is very befitting that our nation officially adapted the name "Israel," because we are a group constantly facing obstacles, but then overcoming them (Beth Torah, 12/17/16).

Esav's Kiss

ויפל על צוארו וישקהו ויבכו - As Esav reencounters Jacob, "he runs to him, embraces him, falls on his neck, he kisses him, and they wept together" (Genesis 33:4). From a plain reading of the text (Peshat), one is left to assume that Esav has moved on with his grievances and is sincerely happy to reunite with his brother. By the word 'וישקהו' ("he kisses him"), however, there is a dot on top of each letter. There are ten instances in the Torah (MT) where dots are found. In Abot of Rabbi Natan 30b, it is suggested that Ezra the Scribe placed dots on certain doubtful words that he thought needed to be deleted, but ultimately decided to leave them in place. A Midrash attributed to R. Yannai claims that Esav did not come to kiss Jacob, but rather to bite him (Genesis Raba 78:9); with the dots symbolic for Esav's bite marks. Whether or not one agrees with this extreme interpretation, the mystery remains as to why there are dots placed on top of this word. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, 11/24/18.

National Identity

והיינו לעם אחד - What exactly is an Israelite? Upon his return from exile, Jacob must establish a distinct national identity for his family if they are to exist as a separate entity within the Land of Canaan. At times, this task is met with certain challenges. For example, after reconciling (Genesis 33), Esav suggests that the two camps travel beside one another (נסעה ונלכה ואלכה לנגדך). To this request, Jacob politely opts out by citing the fragility of his children and cattle in their travels. In doing so, Jacob assures his camp's purity by avoiding unnecessary mingling. In Genesis 34, however, when Dina is held captive and a Hivite-Israelite merger is insisted (והיינו לעם אחד), Jacob is not as fortunate, an embarrassing episode of terror ensues in order to defend Israel's purity. It is not until Bet El (Genesis 35), where all idols are disposed and where Israel is defined as a group which exclusively worships the one supreme God, that a national identity is firmly established. Beth Torah Bulletin, December 2, 2017.  


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