Parshas VaYishlach  

“Yaakov arrived safely at the city of Shechem” (33:18)

  In Torah 27, Rabbi Nachman explains the pasuk “Yaakov arrived safely at Shechem,” which is a concept of “worshipping Him with a Shechem Echad, a united resolve” (Tezfania 3:9). This is awakened through Shalom, peace, and comes through the aspect of Yaakov, who is he’aras panim, the radiant countenance.

   When Yaakov arrived at the city of Shechem, where the worst murderers resided, he came with he’aras panim, with such a shining face that there was an immediate awakening in the town. Everyone wanted to make teshuva—to keep Shabbos, to throw away all their idols, to stop their running after money, and to start serving Hashem. Yaakov Avinu already made them Shabbos boundaries, fixed a currency, and established bathhouses. Everything that he told them to do was inviolable, and this is what Rabbi Nachman explains, “That when he [Yaakov] came, he established faith.” “Fixing a currency” means that he fixed the desire for money. And when he fixed the desire for money, the flaw of idolatry was fixed. And this is the meaning of “he made bathhouses for them,” as it is written, “And the daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe” which Chazal explain (Megillah 13, Sotah 12) as cleansing herself from the idolatry of her father’s home (Likutei Moharan 23). The Ramban explains that this is what was bothering Yaakov when he said to Shimon and Levi, “you have troubled me” (34:30). In truth, the inhabitants of Shechem were ready to make complete teshuva--they had started making teshuva--and they saw Yaakov and his sons as angels, like heavenly beings. All the people of Shechem cancelled themselves before them. It pained Yaakov that they had already accepted upon themselves the Shabbos boundaries and that they had already established a currency, which means that they already had started breaking their desire for money. And they had established bathhouses, meaning that they had started to distance themselves from idolatry. “You have troubled me”—I wanted to bring everyone back in teshuva. You have destroyed everything I wanted to do, all my hopes. All the hope of the redemption depends on converting the whole world, of bringing the whole world back in teshuva. This is the ultimate embarrassment! Any generation that doesn’t bring the whole world back in teshuva is as if they themselves caused them to sin! The greatest thing is to bring people back in teshuva. The Rebbe wanted people to go all over the country, from Dan to Ber Sheva, from Metulla to Eilat, and to bring people back in teshuva, as is written in the holy Zohar, “Fortunate is the person who takes wrongdoers by the hand…” The holy Zohar says that whoever brings people back in teshuva has no gate closed before him. All the doors are open for him. All the paths are open to him. He is given all the keys—a person who goes out and works to bring people back in teshuva—this is the greatest honor for Hashem, He is glorified in all the worlds, “See what a person I have here, one who goes out and brings people back in teshuva.”  

   Truly, the greatest thing is to bring people back in teshuva, but how does one do this?  How does one merit this? Only if a person has hadras panim, a majestic countenance, will he have panim me’irot, a shining face and then he will have a holy face so that just looking at his face will cause people to return in teshuva. On the gravestone of Rebbe Aharon from Karlin, it is written that 80,000 people made teshuva because of him. How did they make teshuva? Did he go and give classes and lectures? What happened was is that people saw his shining face, his hadras panim, and everyone returned in teshuva. To merit to hadras panim, to he’aras panim, Rabbeinu says in Torah 27, is only through learning the holy Gemara, because you can’t get people to make teshuva if you have no intelligence, if you have no understanding. A person needs to have great intelligence, just as the Rebbe said, “I wanted that you would have such intelligence that there hasn’t been for several generations already.” Why shouldn’t we take the Rebbe’s advice and do what he wanted us to do? Let’s do what the Rebbe wanted. The Rebbe didn’t want us to run around aimlessly, dancing around for no reason. The moment that a person learns Gemara and poskim, he receives such a light that he will have the 360,000 holy lights (nehorin). Everyone will run after him, everyone will abandon all their heretical thoughts. All their questions will be answered. And he will come with such a light, such a he’aras panim, emitting such rays of light—“the wisdom of the man enlightens his face.” People see such a light, such wealth, such joy on the face and they return in teshuva. What do people want? People want to be happy—that’s what they want—and the minute that they see that true joy is found by someone who learns Torah, who learns poskim, and whose face is shining like the sun, then everyone returns in teshuva.  

   The main point of learning Torah is in order to teach it to others, as it is written [in the blessings before Shema], “put it in to our hearts…to learn and to teach.” Once a person is knowledgeable in  Torah, he is obligated to teach it to others. The Torah that a person learns is measured according to how much chesed and how much mesirus nefesh he is prepared to give in order to teach others. After a person learns eight or ten hours, he must show that he has the strength, the light, the influence, to bring people back in teshuva. This is the primary action that comes from learning. Each person can bring thousands and thousands of people back in teshuva. A group of 100 people can bring a thousand back in teshuva, and within a few years all of Am Yisrael will do teshuva. If we will start bringing people back in teshuva, then also the nations of the world will return in teshuva. Our purpose is to bring the whole world back in teshuva, even the non-Jews. This is what Hashem loves. Hashem is waiting for us to bring all of Am Yisrael in teshuva, all the nations of the world in teshuva. “All flesh will call Your name, and all the evildoers will turn to You, and every being in the universe will recognize and know You…”  Why do we say this? Why do we say these pesukim? We need to draw the farthest people close  so that everyone should call out in the name of Hashem—even goyim. But first we need to draw the Jews back. If we start with the Jews we can then bring the goyim back. Everyone will do teshuva and will come close to the faith of Israel and serve Him together.  

   “And he graced the countenance of the city,” for six days you studied, worked, and traveled to bring people back in teshuva. Now Shabbos has come, do nothing but sing to Hashem, and this is “and he graced.” Yaakov made them take a recess, he taught them not to go out on Shabbos from their homes. “Stay at home on Shabbos--sing on Shabbos.” One day a week is given to man to sing to Hashem. Shabbos has arrived: sit with your children, sing with your children, learn with them, so that they will see what oneg Shabbos is all about. This will make such a kiddush Hashem in the world, in all the worlds, in all the sefiros—a person sings the Shabbos songs, the whole world hears it--it is heard in every country. This is what awakens all the souls to return in teshuva. A person sings in the privacy of his own home and sings songs to Hashem then all the souls hear his zemiros and his melodies. “And He rested.” Sit at home and sing the Shabbos songs. You will see the whole world return in teshuva, simply from the Shabbos songs, the Shabbos tunes. When one sits at home on Shabbos and sings the Shabbos songs, this gives his children yiras shamayim. When they see their father sitting peacefully and singing tunes, they will have such a good feeling in their hearts, such peace of mind—this becomes their whole life force. This is their whole joy. From this alone they will lose all interest in what is going on in the street. They won’t be interested in the futility of the street. This is all that the child needs: to see his father smiling and happy, calm and singing, sitting for at least two hours at the Shabbos table and singing. This gives vital energy to the child for the whole week. Start to be a simple Jew. The minimum one needs to be a Jew is to sing the Shabbos songs—without this one hasn’t even started being a Jew. If a child sees that his father doesn’t sing the Shabbos songs and he doesn’t learn with him, then he won’t have any reason to stay at home. In the end he will fall into bad behavior, chas v’shalom. He won’t comprehend kedusha. He won’t comprehend purity. A person doesn’t realize the greatness of the Shabbos zemiros. One can resuscitate the dead with the Shabbos zemiros, just as it is told of Rebbe Mordechai who wrote the song, “Ma yafis, uma na’umt ahava b’ta’anugim, (Such beauty and such pleasure are in loving Your delights).” His son passed away on Friday night after candle lighting, and he asked that they put the child in the living room on the couch to hear the Shabbos songs. He started singing, “Chai zekof mach, (Hashem stands erect the one in need)” and the child revived. Shabbos arrives. A person sings all the Shabbos songs and he enlivens everyone. Everyone comes alive. Everyone is happy—everyone is content—because the Shabbos songs give the joy and life force to the whole week.


     A Prayer (written by the Rav)

   Master of the World, you can do everything. Nothing is beyond your ability. Help me that I should merit to pour my heart out like water before you and give me the strength “to walk day and night without pausing and without becoming weary.” As it is written in the Tanna D’vei Eliahu 11:3, if the Sanhedrin had walked to Beis El and to Lachis and to Chevron and to Jerusalem , 70,000 Jews would not have been killed, and the Jews would not have fallen into strange and indecent behavior, chas v’shalom. So, give us strength to walk without pausing all over the land of Israel , from Dan to Ber Sheva, from Metulla to Eilat, and fulfill in us the pasuk, “He gives to strength to the weary and abundant might to the powerless. Youths may weary and tire and young men may constantly falter, but those whose hope is in Hashem will have renewed strength; they will grow wings like eagles; they will run and not grow tired; they will walk and not grow weary” (Yeshiah 40:29-31).  And I should merit that at the time I walk and travel, that the entire holy chariot should come down before me, and the lion of the chariot should come down with 370,000 lions. And the eagle of the chariot with 350,000 eagles should carry me on the wings of eagles. And the lions should roar at all those who try to stop me or to weaken my mind, chas v’shalom, as it is written, “When the lion roars, who will not be afraid.” And it is written, “After Hashem they went, like a lion roars, and I will skip over all the obstacles and I will pass over all the stumbling blocks easily and quickly.” And in the merit of the tzaddik who is the foundation of the world who is called “like the blink of an eye,” I should merit to walk and to travel in holiness and purity while completely guarding my eyes, without looking at any women or girls on the way, chas v’shalom. And I should never become weary because if a person becomes weary and fatigued it is a sign that he has no fear of G-d, as it is written, “And you were tired and weary and did not have fear of G-d.” And I should merit that the Ark of the Covenant should travel before me, just as when the Jews traveled in the desert. And in the merit of the 4 species which are the etrog, the lulav, the three hadassim, and the two willow branches, the seven clouds of glory should be drawn down over me, and they should guard me and preserve me and all Am Yisrael from every evil. And I should merit raising up all the places that visit to the holiness of Jerusalem , and they should go up to their source in the Foundation Stone. And I should merit that all my journeys and travels will be in the aspect of the Cohen Gadol going into the Kodesh Kodoshim, to the Foundation Stone.


      Ohr Pnei Melech Chaim  

   “When a person merits reaching the level of self-nullification, then he doesn’t need anything because, in essence, the moment that a person is “nothing” G-dliness enclothes him and he is everything. That he is nothing does not mean that he lost anything—he only benefits that the G-dly light enclothes him and he has the tzelem Elokim. And he will be so filled with light and so wise and everyone will love him and everyone will run after him because he has such an awesome light. With self-nullification, it is possible to leave “cursed” and enter into “blessed.” When a person cancels himself, he makes a tremendous nachas ruach in heaven. In the 6th section of the Rambam’s Shemoneh Prakim, it is written that HaKadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t know what he gets more pleasure from—he doesn’t know what he desires more—the tzaddik’s deeds or the rasha’s deeds. (The intention is for those who return in teshuva, who abandon their evil ways.) Do I get more pleasure from the tzaddikim, who are always righteous and make me such a great pleasure, or from those who struggle, who have such suffering every second because they are full of desire. There are tzaddikim that were born with such characters, with such a deveikus, with such purity, and there are others who were born into the worst klippot, but they struggle—they want to leave the klippot, and what this does in heaven is awesome and amazing. It is a pleasure to be a tzaddik, but the evildoers agonize and suffer—they go through terrible anguish over everything they do. That they go through such suffering is beloved by Hashem. Their suffering draws them closer to Hashem, and Hashem has indescribable pleasure from this.  

   When a person begins to cry out to Hashem, this has essentially two aspects. There is the person who has it so good, so wonderful, so delightful, that about him it is said, “Beloved is the man who was created in His image.” He has a G-dly image—he learns and prays—everything is great. So it is excellent. But what about a person who is in a difficult situation? What power can he draw on? “Father!” he shouts. “Hashem, you are my father. The only thing I have in the world is You. Only You can save me. Don’t forget me, Your son.” This is already the aspects of Hashem’s children. When such a cry reaches Hashem, this is greater than tzelem Elokim. Son’s of Hashem is already Havayeh, and this is greater than Elokim. Hashem loves the lowest places, the lowest people. Am Yisrael does all the sins in the world, but these are My children—this is my son, my baby. I love him despite what happened to him. I cannot abandon him. They are the children of their Father.  


      Parparot L’Torah

      “And Yaakov sent messengers before him to his brother Eisav” (32:3)

   It is written in Chazal that Yaakov’s heart was full of a sense of foreboding as he went to meet his brother Eisav. Certainly, Yaakov recalled the threats that he overheard before he left for Lavan’s house 20 years earlier. (“The days of mourning for my father are drawing near, and then I will kill my brother Yaakov.”) Therefore, Yaakov prepared himself with in three ways: gifts, prayer and war. Yaakov Avinu’s behavior can serve as a guideline for our own, in every generation. We should pray to our Father in heaven and ask for His help against the enemies that are surrounding us. Together with this, we must prepare ourselves at the time for “gifts and war.” That is to say, on one side, we have to do everything in our ability to appease our bitter enemies, and at the same time we have to prepare with all our might for a military confrontation, in case our enemies chose the path of war.


      Parparot 2

      “And Yaakov was filled with fear…” (32:7)

   About this pasuk it is written in Bereishis Rabbah, “Yaakov said, ‘All these years, he [Eisav] was in the land of Israel . Maybe his having spent so much time in Israel will give him power against me?’”  Rebbe Shmuel Mohaliver asks: this is apparently hard to understand, that Yaakov Avinu who had testified about himself—“I lived with Lavan and kept all the 613 mitzvos” (Rashi)—would be afraid of Eisav, his evil brother, because he had kept a single mitzvah, the mitzvah of living in Israel . Where does it say that this singular mitzvah of living in Israel , which was even done by an evil person who did as many sins as Eisav, could in any way compare with so many mitzvos that the tzaddik yesod olam Yaakov did? Rebbe Shmuel continues: So much more so should a Jew in our times living in Israel , even if he belittles other mitzvos, is beloved and precious to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. “If only we would be among those who live in the land of Israel , even though he impurifes it (the land) with his sins. (Yalkut Shimoni, Eicha 3).


      Story 1

   A group of Chassidim once came to a Melava Malka on parshas VaYishlach. After being given something to eat and drink, one of the elderly men of the group started giving over divrei Torah, and he said: At the end of parshas VaYishlach, Eisav marries “Basmat, the daughter of Yishmoel, sister of Neviot.” Rashi says about this that at the end of parshas Toldos she was called Machlas, as it says, “And Eisav went to Yishmoel and took Machlas.” We find in the Midrash on the book of Shmuel: three [types of people] have all their sins forgiven—a convert when he converts, someone who attains an important position, and a person who is getting married. Thus she was called “Machlas” to hint to us that Eisav was forgiven for all his sins when he got married. But there is a place to ask on this Midrash: It is natural that the sins of a convert are forgiven when he converts, since the person is opening up a new page in his life, from the time he converts and onward. Chazal already stated (Yevamos 22a), “A person who converts is like a person who was just born.” Also a person who has attained a position of status has his sins forgiven so he shouldn’t have a “rucksack full of misbehavior” hanging behind his back at the time that he leads others and serves as a model and good example. But regarding a person getting married, why should he have all the sins that he did before his marriage erased? And while he was asking this question one of the chassidim who was enjoying the meal called out jokingly: In my opinion there is no question or reason for amazement since Chazal already ruled (Brachos 5a), “Suffering purifies a man’s sins.”


      Story 2

      “I lived with Lavan, and I was delayed until now…”(32:4)

   It is told of the Gaon Rebbe Chaim of Sanz, that he sat once at his holy table, grabbed his flowing beard, and said, “I lived with Lavan”—Look my beard is already white (whitened). “And I was delayed until now”—and I was delayed all these days and still I haven’t made teshuva…After a moment of silence, he related: In the city of Lizhensk , the members of the “holy fellowship” were very simple, small-minded people. When the time for Rebbe Elimelech to depart from the world had arrived, they came and said to him, “Rebbe! Thank you for your deeds!” and he answered them, “And where were you up till now when I sat next to the table, and heartily enjoyed eating a full plate of meat? Then I still had the power to make teshuva. Why do you come now when I have lost all my strength? Afterwards he told them how he used to eat and drink a lot, he recollected in detail other “sins that he did.” And in this way, he recalled all the sins of each one of those present. And everyone broke out crying, and didn’t move from there until all of them made complete teshuva.



       Return to Parsha page


  Copyright © 2012  Breslov Institutions, Yeshivat "Shuvu Bonim",
All Rights Reserved.

Home Lessons given by the Rav HaRav Levi Itzchak Bender, zt"l