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Parshas Vayishlach - Alone as One                    14 Kislev 5783

12/08/2022 12:36:18 PM

Dec8

When things we are not sure about don’t work out, we are not particularly fazed about the negative outcome, especially when compared to the disappointment we feel when things we are sure about don’t work out! For example, if someone drives an older car, it may require more maintenance and may be susceptible to breaking down. In that scenario, if it does break down, we are not surprised. But if someone was to drive a brand-new car straight off the showroom floor, the likelihood of it breaking down is slim. If by chance does break down, we would be completely devastated, probably go into a state of shock, and then go nuts. Up until a few years ago I found myself in the first case scenario, and therefore, for many years I had a membership with the AAA, the American Automobile Association. I primarily carried this membership for its roadside assistance benefits. So, when we upgraded to newer vehicles, I no longer felt the need to maintain AAA membership. Fortunately - and unfortunately - even new things grow old, despite the fact that we may keep on thinking that they are still new. Take me, for example. I still think I am twenty-five years old! Fortunately, I am getting older, but unfortunately, as the mileage climbs so does the required maintenance.

A few weeks ago, my wife mentioned that her still brand new 2015 Honda CRV was making some noises and was stuttering after a stop and go. I didn’t think much of this, reasoning to myself that my wife would be traveling shortly, so that would be a good time to have her car checked out. No sooner than that decision was made, I received that dreaded, panic-stricken phone call,  “The car isn’t moving and I’m in the middle of the road!” Luckily, the car had made it off the 8-freeway, going south, but broke down on College Avenue approaching the walking overpass during rush hour. I jumped into my car and sped to the scene, switched cars, letting my wife go home while I dealt with the helpless vehicle. I tried to get it going but quickly realized I need help and called for a tow truck, not AAA. The company said they were sending someone, but it would take about forty-five minutes to an hour for them to get there. In the meantime, I was out directing the oncoming traffic to merge into one lane. Let me tell you, some people know how to drive while others do not. As car after car whizzed by, I was pleasantly surprised that not only one, but three cars slowed down to ask if I needed help (in addition to one phone call asking if I needed any assistance). This experience gave me a renewed sense of faith in humanity, seeing that some people actually cared for someone else, for a total stranger, putting an urgent situation ahead of their own need to get to class or to a meeting, or arrive home in time for dinner.  The challenge to choose to help someone in need or to just ignore the person is not new to the world. We find this replete throughout history. Reviewing the events in my mind, I saw myself “alone” as the cars whizzed by, wondering what they were thinking as they sped past our stalled car. Did they think I was driving some kind of vehicle which I expected would break down or that they felt surprised that someone on the road got stuck and was in their way? The concept of being alone while facing an uncertain challenge is quite common in the Torah; we don’t always know who the enemy is or how to process even what it is. Let’s examine this more carefully…

In this week’s Parshas Vayishlach the Torah states in Bereishis 32:25 "ויותר יעקב לבדו, ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר"  “Yakov remained alone, and a stranger appeared and wrestled with him until just before daybreak”. The Gemara Chullin 91a relates this explanation given by Rebi Shmuel bar Nachmeini: …the man he [Yakov] wrestled with appeared to him as an idolater and Rav Shmuel ber Acha in the name of Rava bar Ulla explains that the man [angel] appeared to him as a Talmid Chacham, a Torah scholar. It was explained in the name of Rabbi Avraham Borenstein, the Sochatchover Rebbe and author of Avnei Nezer (1838-1910), that there are two categories of the Yetzer Hora (evil inclination). There is one kind of evil inclination that simply seduces the man to sin, even though the person clearly knows that it is forbidden to do so. Nevertheless, the Yetzer Hora attempts and often succeeds. This is the appearance of the Sar Shel Eisav, in this opinion, who appeared as an idolater. At this moment, the Yetzer Hora just says to be like an Oved Kochavim, a sinner who just does not care. On the other side, is the Yetzer Hora who dresses up, disguised   as a Talmid Chachom - a Tzadik and Torah scholar. As such, the evil inclination dupes the man, yelling and rebuking him by saying that not only is it not a sin; it is a Mitzva! That yetzer hora, that evil inclination, affects the person to believe he is a tzadik and consequently will follow the yetzer hora, committing the sin. Just as his father and grandfather, Yakov had the ability to see through both disguises and remain steadfast in his single devotion to Hashem. The gid hanasheh, the sciatica nerve and part of the animal’s thigh that is forbidden for Jews to eat, is the reminder that we, the children of Yakov, remain devoted to Hashem despite the efforts of an Eisav coming to us in different forms to wedge something between us and Hashem.

The merit for Yaakov to remain “L’Vado”- by himself - was a portend for the Jewish people: Am Yisrael must be an “Am L’vadod”- a nation which stands alone! This has stood for us and our forefathers, even as the dust of society kicks up all around us with the ministers and subjects of Eisav. With this merit of our strong belief and security in Hashem, may we be permitted to see into the future and experience the “Also HasShachar”- the Days of Dawn - the Geula Shelaima, the complete redemption. At that time, even the remnants of Eisav will be forced against their will to say ‘Amen’ to the blessings of Yaakov.          

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Wed, February 8 2023 17 Shevat 5783