8) Parshah Vayishlach וַיִּשְׁלַח
Parshah and Haftorah for Vayishlach (וַיִּשְׁלַח). The Hebrew words for “he sent,” the first word of the Parshah, Genesis 32:4–36:43; read on the days of Kislev 10-16, 5779, aka Nov 18-24, 2018.
Parshah in a Nutshell for Vayishlach
Jacob returns to the Holy Land after a 20-year stay in Charan, and sends angel-emissaries to Esau in hope of a reconciliation, but his messengers report that his brother is on the warpath with 400 armed men. Jacob prepares for war, prays, and sends Esau a large gift (consisting of hundreds of heads of sheep and cattle) to appease him.
That night, Jacob ferries his family and possessions across the Yabbok River; he, however, remains behind and encounters the angel that embodies the spirit of Esau, with whom he wrestles until daybreak. Jacob suffers a dislocated hip but vanquishes the supernal creature, who bestows on him the name Israel, which means “He who prevails over the Divine.”
Jacob and Esau meet, embrace and kiss, but part ways. Jacob purchases a plot of land near Shechem, whose crown prince — also called Shechem — abducts and rapes Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Dinah’s brothers Simon and Levi avenge the deed by killing all male inhabitants of the city after rendering them vulnerable by convincing them to circumcise themselves.
Jacob journeys on. Rachel dies while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, and is buried in a roadside grave near Bethlehem. Reuben loses the birthright because he interferes with his father’s marital life. Jacob arrives in Hebron, to his father Isaac, who later dies at age 180 (Rebecca has passed away before Jacob’s arrival).
Our parshah concludes with a detailed account of Esau’s wives, children and grandchildren, and the family histories of the people of Se’ir among whom Esau settled.
Torah reading for Vayishlach
4. Jacob sent angels ahead of him to his brother Esau, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. 5. And he commanded them, saying, “So shall you say to my master to Esau, ‘Thus said your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and I have tarried until now. 6. And I have acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, manservants, and maidservants, and I have sent to tell [this] to my master, to find favor in your eyes.’ ” 7. The angels returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother, to Esau, and he is also coming toward you, and four hundred men are with him.” 8. Jacob became very frightened and was distressed; so he divided the people who were with him and the flocks and the cattle and the camels into two camps. 9. And he said, “If Esau comes to one camp and strikes it down, the remaining camp will escape.” 10. And Jacob said, “O G*d of my father Abraham and G*d of my father Isaac, the L*rd, Who said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your birthplace, and I will do good to you.’ 11. I have become small from all the kindnesses and from all the truth that You have rendered Your servant, for with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 12. Now deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him, lest he come and strike me, [and strike] a mother with children. 13. And You said, ‘I will surely do good with you, and I will make your seed [as numerous] as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of multitude.'”
14. So he lodged there on that night, and he took from what came into his hand a gift for his brother Esau: 15. Two hundred she goats and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 16. Thirty nursing camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty she donkeys and ten he donkeys. 17. And he gave into the hands of his servants each herd individually, and he said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and make a space between one herd and another herd.” 18. And he commanded the first one, saying, “When my brother Esau meets you, and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and for whom are these before you?’ 19. You shall say, ‘[I belong] to your servant Jacob; it is a gift sent to my master, to Esau, and behold, he himself is behind us.'” 20. And he commanded also the second one, also the third one, also all those who followed the herds, saying, “In this manner shall you speak to Esau when you meet him. 21. And you shall say, ‘Also, behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he said, “I will appease his anger with the gift that is going before me, and afterwards I will see his face, perhaps he will favor me.” 22. So the gift passed on before him, and he lodged that night in the camp. 23. And he arose during that night, and he took his two wives and his two maidservants and his eleven children, and he crossed the ford of [the] Jabbok. 24. And he took them and brought them across the stream, and he took across what was his. 25. And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. 26. When he saw that he could not prevail against him, he touched the socket of his hip, and the socket of Jacob’s hip became dislocated as he wrestled with him. 27. And he (the angel) said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking,” but he (Jacob) said, “I will not let you go unless you have blessed me.” 28. So he said to him, “What is your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” 29. And he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have commanding power with [an angel of] G*d and with men, and you have prevailed.” 30. And Jacob asked and said, “Now tell me your name,” and he said, “Why is it that you ask for my name?” And he blessed him there.
31. And Jacob named the place Peniel, for [he said,] “I saw an angel face to face, and my soul was saved.” 32. And the sun rose for him when he passed Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 33. Therefore, the children of Israel may not eat the displaced tendon, which is on the socket of the hip, until this day, for he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip, in the hip sinew.
1. Jacob lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men; so he divided the children with Leah and with Rachel and with the two maidservants. 2. And he placed the maidservants and their children first and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and her Joseph last. 3. And he went ahead of them and prostrated himself to the ground seven times, until he came close to his brother. 4. And Esau ran toward him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5. And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and he said, “Who are these to you?” And he said, “The children with whom G*d has favored your servant.”
6. And the maidservants and their children drew near and prostrated themselves. 7. And Leah and her children drew near and prostrated themselves, and after [them], Joseph and Rachel drew near and prostrated themselves. 8. And he said, “What is to you [the purpose of] all this camp that I have met?” And he said, “To find favor in my master’s eyes.” 9. But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother; let what you have remain yours.” 10. Thereupon Jacob said, “Please no! If indeed I have found favor in your eyes, then you shall take my gift from my hand, because I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of an angel, and you have accepted me. 11. Now take my gift, which has been brought to you, for G*d has favored me [with it], and [because] I have everything.” He prevailed upon him, and he took [it]. 12. Thereupon, he said, “Travel and we will go, and I will go alongside you.” 13. And he said to him, “My master knows that the children are tender, and the flocks and the cattle, which are raising their young, depend upon me, and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die. 14. Now, let my master go ahead before his servant, and I will move [at] my own slow pace, according to the pace of the work that is before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my master, to Seir.” 15. Thereupon Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why [do] that? May I find favor in my master’s eyes.” 16. So Esau returned on that day on his way to Seir. 17. And Jacob traveled to Succoth and built himself a house, and for his cattle he made booths; therefore he named the place Succoth. 18. And Jacob came safely [to] the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan aram, and he encamped before the city. 19. And he bought the part of the field where he had pitched his tent from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for a hundred kesitas. 20. There he erected an altar, and he named it “G*d is the G*d of Israel.”
1. Dinah, the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to look about among the daughters of the land. 2. And Shechem the son of Hamor, the Hivvite, the prince of the land, saw her, and he took her, lay with her, and violated her. 3. And his soul cleaved to Dinah the daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl and spoke to the girl’s heart. 4. And Shechem spoke to his father Hamor saying, “Take this girl for me as a wife.” 5. Jacob had heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah, but his sons were with his livestock in the field, and Jacob kept silent until they came [home]. 6. And Hamor, the father of Shechem, went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7. And Jacob’s sons had come from the field when they heard, and the men were grieved, and they burned fiercely, because he had committed a scandalous act in Israel, to lie with a daughter of Jacob, and such ought not to be done. 8. And Hamor spoke with them, saying, “My son Shechem his soul has a liking for your daughter. Please give her to him for a wife. 9. And intermarry with us; you shall give us your daughters, and you shall take our daughters for yourselves. 10. And you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you; remain, do business there and settle there.” 11. And Shechem said to her father and to her brothers, “May I find favor in your eyes. Whatever you tell me I will give. 12. Impose upon me a large marriage settlement and gifts, and I will give as [much as] you ask of me, but give me the girl for a wife.” 13. Thereupon, Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with cunning, and they spoke, because [after all] he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14. And they said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to a man who has a foreskin, for that is a disgrace to us. 15. But with this, however, we will consent to you, if you will be like us, that every male will be circumcised. 16. Then we will give you our daughters, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will dwell with you and become one people. 17. But if you do not listen to us to be circumcised, we will take our daughter and go.” 18. Their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, the son of Hamor. 19. And the young man did not delay to do the thing because he desired Jacob’s daughter, and he was the most honored in all his father’s household. 20. And Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city, and they spoke to the people of their city, saying, 21. “These men are peaceful with us, and they will dwell in the land and do business there, and the land behold it is spacious enough for them. We will take their daughters for ourselves as wives, and we will give them our daughters. 22. However, [only] with this [condition] will the men consent to dwell with us, to become one people, by every male among us being circumcised, just as they are circumcised. 23. Then shall not their cattle, their property, and all their beasts be ours? But let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.” 24. And all those coming out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male, all who went out of the gate of his city, became circumcised. 25. Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that Jacob’s two sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword, and they came upon the city with confidence, and they slew every male. 26. And Hamor and his son Shechem they slew with the edge of the sword, and they took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and left. 27. Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and plundered the city that had defiled their sister. 28. Their flocks and their cattle and their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and whatever was in the field they took. 29. And all their wealth and all their infants and their wives they captured and plundered, and all that was in the house. 30. Thereupon, Jacob said to Simeon and to Levi, “You have troubled me, to discredit me among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and among the Perizzites, and I am few in number, and they will gather against me, and I and my household will be destroyed.” 31. And they said, “Shall he make our sister like a harlot?”
1. And G*d said to Jacob, “Arise and go up to Beth el and abide there, and make there an altar to the G*d Who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2. Thereupon Jacob said to his household and to all those who were with him, “Remove the deities of the foreign nations, which are in your midst, purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3. And we will arise and go up to Beth el, and I will make an altar to the G*d Who answered me on the day of my distress, and was with me on the way that I went.” 4. And they gave Jacob all the deities of the nations that were in their possession and the earrings that were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the terebinth that was near Shechem. 5. Then they traveled, and the fear of G*d was upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue Jacob’s sons. 6. And Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan that is Beth el he and all the people who were with him. 7. He built there an altar, and he called the place El Beth el, for there G*d had been revealed to him when he fled from before his brother Esau. 8. And Deborah, Rebecca’s nurse, died, and she was buried beneath Beth el, beneath the plain; so he named it Allon Bachuth. 9. And G*d appeared again to Jacob when he came from Padan aram, and He blessed him. 10. G*d said to him, “Your name is Jacob. Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” And He named him Israel. 11. And G*d said to him, “I am the Almighty G*d; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a multitude of nations shall come into existence from you, and kings shall come forth from your loins.
12. And the land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac, I will give to you and to your seed after you will I give the land.” 13. And G*d went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him. 14. Now Jacob had erected a monument in the place where He had spoken with him, a stone monument, and he poured a libation upon it, and [then] he poured oil upon it. 15. Jacob named the place where G*d had spoken with him Beth el. 16. And they journeyed from Beth el, and there was still some distance to come to Ephrath, and Rachel gave birth, and her labor was difficult. 17. It came to pass when she had such difficulty giving birth, that the midwife said to her, “Do not be afraid, for this one, too, is a son for you.” 18. And it came to pass, when her soul departed for she died that she named him Ben oni, but his father called him Benjamin. 19. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the road to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20. And Jacob erected a monument on her grave; that is the tombstone of Rachel until this day. 21. Israel journeyed, and he pitched his tent at some distance past the Tower of Eder. 22. And it came to pass when Israel sojourned in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Israel heard [of it], and so, the sons of Jacob were twelve. 23. The sons of Leah [were] Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. 24. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 25. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant: Dan and Naphtali. 26. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maidservant: Gad and Asher. These are Jacob’s sons who were born to him in Padan aram. 27. And Jacob came to his father Isaac, to Mamre, Kiriath arba, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac dwelt. 28. The days of Isaac were a hundred and eighty years. 29. And Isaac expired and died and was gathered in to his peoples, old and sated with days, and his sons, Esau and Jacob, buried him.
1. And these are the generations of Esau, that is, Edom. 2. Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah, daughter of Elon the Hittite; and Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, daughter of Zibeon the Hivvite; 3. also Basemath, daughter of Ishmael, sister of Nebaioth. 5. Oholibamah bore Jeush and Jalam and Korah; these are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan. 6. And Esau took his wives, his sons, and his daughters and all the people of his household, and his cattle and all his animals and all his property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and he went to a[nother] land, because of his brother Jacob. 7. For their possessions were too numerous for them to dwell together, and the land of their sojournings could not support them because of their livestock. 8. So Esau dwelt on Mount Seir Esau, that is Edom. 9. And these are the generations of Esau the progenitor of Edom, on Mount Seir. 10. These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz, son of Adah, the wife of Esau, Reuel, son of Basemath, the wife of Esau. 11. The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gaatam, and Kenaz. 12. And Timna was a concubine to Eliphaz, son of Esau, and she bore to Eliphaz, Amalek. These are the sons of Adah, the wife of Esau. 13. And these are the sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. These are the sons of Basemath, the wife of Esau. 14. And these are the sons of Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, daughter of Zibeon, the wife of Esau; she bore to Esau: Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah. 15. These became the chieftains of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz, Esau’s firstborn: Chief Teman, Chief Omar, Chief Zepho, Chief Kenaz, 16. Chief Korah, Chief Gaatam, Chief Amalek. These are the chieftains of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah. 17. And these are the sons of Reuel the son of Esau: Chief Nahath, Chief Zerah, Chief Shammah, and Chief Mizzah. These are the chieftains of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Basemath, the wife of Esau. 18. And these are the sons of Oholibamah, the wife of Esau: Chief Jeush, Chief Jaalam, Chief Korah. These are the chieftains of Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, the wife of Esau. 19. These are the sons of Esau and these are their chieftains, he is Edom.
20. These are the sons of Seir the Horite, the inhabitants of the land: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, and Anah; 21. Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. These are the chieftains of the Horites, the sons of Seir in the land of Edom. 22. The sons of Lotan were Hori and Hemam, and the sister of Lotan was Timna. 23. And these are the sons of Shobal: Alvan, Manahath, and Ebal, Shepho and Onam. 24. And these are the sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah he is Anah who found the mules in the wilderness when he pastured the donkeys for his father Zibeon. 25. And these are the sons of Anah: Dishon and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah. 26. And these are the sons of Dishan: Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. 27. These are the sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan. 28. These are the sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran. 29. These are the chieftains of the Horites: Chief Lotan, Chief Shobal, Chief Zibeon, Chief Anah, 30. Chief Dishon, Chief Ezer, and Chief Dishan; these are the chieftains of the Horites according to their chieftains in the land of Edom. 31. And these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel: 32. Bela, son of Beor reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah. 33. Bela died, and Jobab, son of Zerah of Bozrah, reigned in his stead. 34. And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his stead. 35. Husham died, and Hadad, son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead. The name of his city was Avith. 36. Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead. 37. Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth by the river reigned in his stead. 38. Saul died, and Baal Hanan, son of Achbor, reigned in his stead. 39. Baal Hanan, son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his stead. The name of his city was Pau; his wife’s name was Mehetabel, daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me zahab. 40. And these are the names of the chieftains of Esau, according to their clans, according to their places, by their names: Chief Timna, Chief Alvah, Chief Jetheth; 41. Chief Oholibamah, Chief Elah, Chief Pinon, 42. Chief Kenaz, Chief Teman, Chief Mibzar, 43. Chief Magdiel, Chief Iram. These are the chieftains of Edom according to their dwelling places in the land of their possession. That is Esau, progenitor of the Edomites.
Haftorah In a Nutshell for Vayishlach
This week’s haftorah mentions the punishment of Edom, the descendents of Esau, whose conflict with Jacob is chronicled in this week’s Torah reading.
The prophet Obadiah, himself an Edomian convert to Judaism, describes the punishment destined for the nation of Edom. The Edomites did not come to Judea’s aid when she was being destroyed by the Babylonians, and even joined in the carnage. Many years later the Edomites (the Roman Empire) themselves destroyed the Second Temple and mercilessly killed and enslaved their Jewish cousins.
Though the Roman Empire was one of the mightiest to ever inhabit the earth, the prophet forewarns: “If you go up high like an eagle, and if you place your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the L*rd. . . And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall become stubble, and they shall ignite them and consume them, and the house of Esau shall have no survivors, for the L*rd has spoken.”
After describing the division of Esau’s lands amongst the returning Judean exiles, the haftorah concludes with the well known phrase: “And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the L*rd shall have the kingdom.”
Haftorah Reading for Vayishlach
1. The vision of Obadiah; So said the L*rd G*d concerning Edom; We have heard tidings from the L*rd, and a messenger has been sent among the nations, “Arise and let us rise up against them in war!” 2. Behold I have made you small among the nations; you are very despised. 3. The wickedness of your heart enticed you, who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high, who says to himself, “Who will bring me down to the earth?” 4. If you go up high like an eagle, and if you place your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the L*rd. 5. Did thieves come upon you, did plunderers of the night? How were you silent? Will they not steal till they have enough? If vintagers came upon you, would they not leave over some gleaning grapes? 6. How Esau was searched out, how his hidden things were revealed! 7. Until the border all your allies escorted you; your friends enticed you, yea prevailed against you; your food they lay as a wound under you; there is no discernment in them. 8. Shall I not in that day-says the L*rd-destroy wise men from Edom and discernment from the mountain of Esau? 9. And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O dwellers of the southland, in order that every man be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter. 10. Because of the violence of your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. 11. On that day you stood from afar, on the day strangers captured his possessions, and foreigners came into his cities, and on Jerusalem they cast lots; you, too, are like one of them. 12. And you should not have looked on the day of your brother on the day of his being delivered, and you should not have rejoiced about the children of Judah on the day of their destruction, and you should not have spoken proudly on the day of distress. 13. You should not have come into the gate of My people on the day of their misfortune; you too should not have looked at their affliction on the day of their misfortune, and you should not have stretched out [your hand] upon their possessions on the day of their misfortune. 14. And you should not have stood by the gap to cut off their fugitives, neither should you have delivered their survivors on the day of distress. 15. For the day of the L*rd over all the nations is close; as you have done shall be done to you; your recompense shall be returned upon your head. 16. For, as you drank on My Holy Mount, shall all the nations drink constantly, and they shall drink and be stunned, and they shall be as though they were not. 17. And on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall inherit those who inherited them. 18. And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall become stubble, and they shall ignite them and consume them, and the house of Esau shall have no survivors, for the L*rd has spoken. 19. And [the inhabitants of] the southland shall inherit the mountain of Esau, and [the inhabitants of] the plain, the Philistines, and they shall inherit the field of Ephraim and the field of Samaria, and Benjamin [with the inhabitants of] Gilead. 20. And this exiled host of the children of Israel who are [with] the Canaanites as far as Zarephath and the exile of Jerusalem which is in Sepharad shall inherit the cities of the southland. 21. And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the L*rd shall have the kingdom.