Who is That

(Torah Portion Vayishlach) Who is That!

The story is told that two great sages of the 1800’s, Rabbi Yehudah Assad and Rabbi Moshe Sofer went to the royal palace to petition against a law detrimental to the Jews. While they were being escorted through the palace, Rabbi Yehudah Assad suddenly asked Rabbi Sofer, “Who is that man walking towards us with a radiance of the Divine presence on his face?”

When Rabbi Sofer did not answer, Rabbi Assad turned and saw that he was smiling at him. Rabbi Assad looked again and realized that they were going towards a mirror. It was the first time Rabbi Assad had seen himself in a mirror! In his humility, Rabbi Assad tried to explain that he saw the Divine presence on the reflection of Rabbi Sofer’s face; but it wasn’t easy getting himself out of the situation.

Great spiritual people give off an illuminating aura and appearance.

Our Sages tell us that our patriarch Yaacov had the same spiritual aura and complexion as Adam had before Adam sinned. Yaacov was holy. He dreamt about angels, was escorted by angels, fought with an angel, and dispatched angels for his protection.

The spirituality and devoutness to G-d that Yaacov achieved was the pinnacle of what a human can reach. By contrast, his twin brother Aisav was on the lowest of levels of impurity.

It is thus astounding to read a statement that Yaacov made to his hateful brother when they finally met. “I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of a Divine being.”

How can Yaacov say that Aisav’s face was like that of a Divine being if it was clearly not so?

The Talmud explains Yaacov’s statement with this parable. A person was someone’s guest, and during the meal he realized that his host was planning to kill him. He cleverly told his host, “You know, this dish that you served me tastes exactly like what they serve me in the King’s palace.” The host quickly realized that his guest was not just a regular guy off the street but was from higher society who frequents the king, and if he harms him he will certainly be caught and punished.

This was also Yaacov’s intention when he told the wicked Aisav that meeting him was like meeting a Divine being. As we know, the night before Yaacov met Aisav, Yaakov struggled and fought with Aisav’s angel and successfully overpowered the angel.

Because Yaacov was afraid that Aisav would kill him, he told Aisav, “If I were you, I would think twice before killing me because I have just encountered your Divine angel who resembles you and I was successful in beating him. Yaacov’s relationship with the angels made Aisav reconsider his immediate plans of killing him and Yaacov and his children’s lives were spared.

Yaacov lived with his deceitful father-in-law Lavan for twenty years and had to continually and cleverly develop a strategy to survive.

I came across a beautiful illustration written by the Chofetz Chaim which gives us an appreciation of Yaacov’s physiological and spiritual approach when dealing with a fraudster and swindler for a father in law on a daily basis for twenty years.

A father distributed equal shares of a fund to each of his children. One brother took the share of another brother. The brother whose share was taken asked for his share back and he was flatly refused. Instead of creating a ruckus, the brother decided to go to his father and explain the situation. He then said, “I know that you wish that we keep Shalom – peace – in the family, therefore I am asking for another portion rather than cause a schism between us brothers.” The father upon hearing that his son’s foremost interest was to maintain peace was elated. He gave his son another handsome portion and then told him, “In the future I will distribute a double share for you and make sure your brother won’t get his.”

Says the Chofetz Chaim, the lesson and idea we take from this story is that G-d, our Father in Heaven is interested in providing us with our sustenance. There are times when another or others impinge on our territory and we ask them to back off. But it doesn’t always work out the way we want it to. The person should then turn to G-d – Hashem and ask Him to provide for him from a different source – so that a rift or strife should not break out between His children.

Concludes the Chofetz Chaim, “With such an approach and request, G-d will certainly find him in good favor and will indeed grant his request twofold!”

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks