Vayishlach 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Confronting Our Enemies

Parshas Vayishlach

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or

If you are interested in receiving Rabbi Spero's Dvar Torah in your email each week, please contact him at

In this week’s portion, Yaakov discovers that his brother Esav is coming to confront him. From the moment Yaakov took the blessings that had originally been earmarked for Esav (Bereshis 27), this confrontation was inevitable.

Yaakov’s messages and overtures to Esav provide an invaluable lesson as to how we must confront our enemies, both those who wish to decimate us spiritually, and those who wish to decimate us physically.

Yaakov first sends a subtle message to Esav: “I have lived with Lavan” (Bereshis 32:5). Lavan was Yaakov’s father in law, with whom he had worked and lived for the last twenty years. Lavan was an extremely immoral person, a liar, a cheat, and a thief. The word in Hebrew for I lived is “gartey”. The same letters can also be spelled out to say “taryag” which is not a word, but a number, six hundred and thirteen. This is the amount of commandments that appear in the Torah.

Yaakov was telling Esav, “not only have I served Hashem when I was completely immersed in Torah, but although I have lived in exile with an immoral person like Lavan, I still observed all the commandments of the Torah. I did not compromise my beliefs.”

This message resonated on two fronts. The first one was that Yaakov had many merits for his years of devotion to Hashem and Esav should not think his observance slacked off while with Lavan. The second front was that Yaakov was telling Esav, “don’t think you will be successful in your attempts to assimilate me. I survived Lavan, and I will survive you.”

Yaakov, in addition to sending this message, prepared in three ways: with tribute, prayer and preparation to fight.

Let us focus on Yaakov’s preparation for prayer.

Each of the three forefathers instituted a time of prayer (Brochos 26b). Avraham instituted Shacharis, the morning prayer service. Rabbi Munk explains that this reflected on Avraham’s life and service to Hashem. Just like the morning, Avraham’s spreading of monotheism was a flash of brightness after the darkness of idolatry. The morning service is filled with praises to Hashem, as Avraham spread praise of Hashem to thousands of adherents.

Yitzchok instituted Mincha, the afternoon service. This is the shortest of the three services. The time for Mincha, before nightfall, is the most fearful time of the day, because it is filled with uncertainty: how will the night be, how shall we get through it? Yitzchok lived in such a time. He knew Yaakov was to undergo much suffering. Thus, Mincha is the shortest of the three prayers. There is only one prayer praising G-d as a lead in to the intense “Shemoneh Esrei”, when we stand before G-d as a servant beseeches his master.

Yaakov instituted Ma’ariv, the evening prayer service. When a person faces punishment, the waiting time - the time before the person actually knows the sentence - is the worst time.  It is often worse than the punishment itself. Ma’ariv is prayed with a strong conviction that, though it is now dark, Hashem will be with us and redeem us from this this exile just as He has been with us and redeemed us from previous exiles.

This reflected on Yaakov’s life. Yaakov underwent much more suffering that Avraham and Yitzchok, yet through this suffering, he knew that Hashem was with Him.

And as we move on through this exile of night, we must make all our preparations, but first and foremost, we must trust in Hashem.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

Home ] Up ]