Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vayishlach, Breishis 32:8. Vayiroh Yaakov me’ohd vayeitzer loh. What did Yaakov Fear?

The passuk says that when Yaakov prepared for his confrontation with Eisav, he was stricken with fear and with terrible trepidation. Why the double expression?

Rashi explains that his yiroh was because he might be killed, and his tzoroh/distress was because he might have to kill others. You would think that the second half is testament to Jewish rachamim, or recognition that killing a human- no matter how much he deserves it or how immediate his threat is- brutalizes the killer and leaves indelible mental trauma. Or you might think that it is along the lines of “kohen she’horag es hanefesh lo yisoh kappov,” or Dovid Hamelech’s being precluded from building the Beis Hamikdosh because “yodcho domim molei’u.” You would be wrong. I haven’t found one meforeish of Rashi– or the Medrash Rashi is based on– that learns pshat like that. The only one that says that derech was Golda Meir. The pshotim I saw range from his fear of Yitzchok’s reaction to his fear of killing non-combatants to a fear that the death of one brother would precipitate the death of the other, as per the concern Rivkah had expressed. Nobody that I saw says that Yaakov was having nightmares about possibly killing someone who needed killing. I may have missed something, and I would appreciate a mareh makom if you have one.


  1. From Blackleibel: Simple pshat? You gotta see Divrei Yoel, Vayishlach, Page 127. Weep!

  2. Thank you, Blackleibel. I saw the Divrei Yoel, and this is what he says:
    He quotes the seifer hakodosh "Ateres Tzvi" who asks just this question; what do you mean he was afraid of killing the soldiers of Eisov? Habo le'horgecho, hashkeim le'horgo! He was a rodeif! So he answers that Yaakov knew that Eisov contained the nitzotzos of many holy neshomos, such as Reb Akiva, and he was terrified that by wiping out Eisov he would destroy those holy neshomos' connection to our world. This is why he divided his camp, so that neither camp would have the ability to utterly destroy the army of Eisov, and he would be able to manage the battle to ensure that such a result did not occur.

    So on the one hand, Yaakov was afraid for his own people, but on the other hand, he was afraid of killing the progenitor of such holy and important people that he knew could stem from them. This is pshat in the two fears of Yaakov.

  3. Yaakov was not afraid for his own life as he had a havtacha from HKBH and also knew that Eisav would not kill him as long as Yitzchok lived. Rather Yaakov feared for his family "pen yavo v"hikani eim al banim".
    Why should he fear for his family afterall he had a havtachah that his children would be "k'kochvei hashamyim larov"? Apparantly, he was uncertain if that promise applied to this family or perhaps a future family that he might have.
    When Yaakov said 'Im Lavan garti... v'Taryag mitzvos shamrati" he opened himself up to Eisav pointing out that he did in fact violate the issur of marrying 2 sisters, a crime punishible by kares.
    This is what we mean by Lavan bikesh laakor es hakol. By causing Yaakov to marry 2 sisters (despite the lomdus as to why it was permissible, we still see from the gm Barchos that Yaakov felt unworthy to lead bentching at seudas hamashiach) he gave Eisav the ability to call Yaakov a liar/hypocrite and possibly destroy his family.