Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Vayishlach in a Nutshell

Vayishlach in a Nutshell

 Email

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 livestock) to appease him.

That night, Jacob ferries his family and possessions across the Jabbok 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 Simeon 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; the family histories of the people of Seir, among whom Esau settled; and a list of the eight kings who ruled Edom, the land of Esau’s and Seir’s descendants.

© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
19 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Ioan Maxim Oradea BH Romania December 5, 2014

the life of Yaakov shows that despite all his difficulties demonstrate that HaShem help those who love him and trust in Him Reply

Joan Spehr Clark Westerville November 15, 2013

Imperfect Environments Isn't the writing really about how to deal with injustice? Sometimes there are just rules that don't seem to make sense. Why would one child receive more than another (just because it is born 1st-Wouldn't you just give each the same?) Then it seems to deal with the problems of differing value systems and intelligence. I can see giving a child with a much higher intelligence property/wealth to manage for another of lesser (but still giving both equal amounts)

I have dealt with differing value systems all my life; and I have never attempted to fight them - even though the harm levels have been astronomical. I now believe you should never live among or beside differing ones (if there is another option) And you should sue harm, instead of physically fight - except in cases of self defense. Then you can do both.

Teaching self defense to temples is very important; & nothing that has happened in my life. Why not replace the harm w a person of the same name - but correct behavior w legal pymt Reply

R.eda Missouri November 15, 2013

Eric's Responce frm Franklin Mii Dec2,2011 This makes so much for your enlightenment on the topic. Thank you Eric.
I would like to see more updated comments as it helps the Newly converted student understand better from the advanced learned an is appreciated thanks for sharing all of you as well as those who will share. Reply

Peter Barta Budapest November 15, 2013

Shimeon, Levi They were grown-up men, fully responsible when they did what were wrong in the eyes of their father. Jacob immediatley rebuked them (Genesis 34:30), but they not accepted his words (ibid. 31). Jacob so intesly refuse their extremity, that he actually cursed their anger before his death (49:5-7). All can be easily understood, if we concentrate his words. He said, they made him socially unacceptable before the people of the land. So he made such an unproportional anger and wrath socially unacceptable for Israel. Reply

Lee Diamond Israel November 15, 2013

The power of the will; of self awareness; of a life of learning Yaakov was born as Yaakov (as deceiver) but struggled throughout his to become Yisrael. And so the struggle to become Yisrael continues with each of us! Reply

Rabbi Shaffier Kearney, NE November 12, 2013

Yakovs name The name Yackov doesnt mean deciever. It means smart or intelligent. As onklos translates esauv's complaint, "he 'yakcveini' these two times" as "he 'chachmeini/outsmarted me these two times"
In other books as well the name Yackov is described as being interchangeable with the word chachmah/wisdom. Reply

Baruch Davidson New York December 2, 2012

Punishment for Simeon and levi In the final Parsha of the Book of Genesis, Jacob punishes Simeon and Levi by not blessing them as he does the other brothers, and instead tells them (Genesis 48:5-7), "Simeon and Levi are brothers; stolen instruments are their weapons. Let my soul not enter their counsel; my honor, you shall not join their assembly, for in their wrath they killed a man, and with their will they hamstrung a bull. Cursed be their wrath for it is mighty, and their anger because it is harsh. I will separate them throughout Jacob, and I will scatter them throughout Israel." Reply

Adam Swartz Santa Monica, CA December 1, 2012

So I have a question. is there a later punishment of Simeon and Levi for the murder of all males in retaliation for the rape of Dinah? If so is this discussed in a later parshah? Thank you. Reply

Daniel Nessim London November 30, 2012

Jacob not a deceiver I find it frustrating that people buy into the libel that Jacob was a deceiver. The Torah clearly says 'and his hand had hold on Esau's heel. And his name was called Jacob.' In other words, his name is 'heel-grabber' as the etymology suggests. It is wrong to repeat Esau's libel, who made a play on Jacob's name, saying 'Is not he rightly name Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times.' Esau follows up this calumny with a bold-faced lie: 'He took away my birthright.' The Torah has its own verdict on this too, saying 'Esau despised his birthright.' Reply

Monty Souther OREGON November 30, 2012

vayishlach True Yaackov's name does mean deceiver, but just who is he supposed to deceive? I think he was deceiving himself, for he had to know just who he was in relation with Hashem (G-d). Not only did he remain behind for a peace of pottery but He fought and defeated the spirit of Eisav which could also be that which was also inside of him hence the name Israel. From this we learn that we all have that same battle to fight and win every day. I Believe that only when we stop battling each other and concentrate on the evil within ourselves will Moshiach come. Reply

Yechiel Tennessee November 30, 2012

cultural obscurities The comments on Levi and Shimon are good; they bring out the question, why they could do as they did, even before the giving of the Torah.
I do not have an answer; I was not present. However, as I see from what I learned in my studies of cultural rules and behavior, I noticed that if it is difficult to deal with an idea or behavior in a certain way, people grow up unable to understand how or why others can.
This is one example; the Jewish/Christian difference on the Unity of G-d. You can read what you want to your friend, of the other culture, and you may get a blank stair back for your efforts. Why? Because even though you both speak the same language, the words you use for your acceptance of certain ideas are, psychologically, different.
This is why it is important to not judge another culture, as there are things we may not understand, cannot have the full understanding of the "why?"
Thank you. Shalom. Reply

Eric Franklin, Mi. December 9, 2011

Dinah etc. I believe that one of the commandments is that if a man rapes a woman then he must marry her if she so desires. As archaic as this may seem, it does seem to give the victim the final say.Why a woman would want to marry he who assaulted her is beyond my imagination. That being said, there are many of the 613 that I do not understand. However, no where is it written that I have to understand the commandments, I just have to do them. Reply

Anonymous denver, co December 9, 2011

Dinah and Shechem If defiled means rape you must then think about the ways that the Torah deals with rape. If a man rapes an unmarried woman he can go to her father and pay him and then she is his wife. Although this story predates the giving of the Torah it can still be argued that Shimon and Levi's actions are extreme. Reply

Eric Franklin, Mi. December 7, 2011

Vayishlach I believe that "defiled" is Torah speak for "raped". Killing all of the men of Schechem was indeed extreme as evidenced by Jacob's reaction. He could not have known about this or else I believe he would have stopped it. After all, he was a Tzaddik and it would have been incompatible with his world view. Even though he preceded Moishe, he knew all of the commandments and, being a Torah observant Jew, he could not have been a part of this. Reply

Michael Nieuchowicz December 6, 2011

Anonymous in London Jacob, as his name suggests, was a deceiver, and was afraid that his brother will kill him for the bad things he did to him in the past. Reply

Anonymous London December 5, 2011

Why does Yaackov give Eisav a large gift of hundreds of livestock heads? Reply

Menachem Posner for Chabad.org November 23, 2010

To Anon in Nice You are correct. At first glance, the actions of Shimon and Levi do look extreme. I highly recommend A Time to Kill for a fascinating and sound perspective into this episode. Reply

Eliyahu McKeefe November 23, 2010

Hay Anon from France Shechem sure did rape Dinah. The fact that he wanted to marry her just adds insult to injury. Not only did he coerce her that once, he actually wanted her for the rest of her life! Reply

Anonymous Nice, France November 20, 2010

Vayishlach I can't help feeling that Jacob did the dirty on Shechem and the others.
They agreed to be circumcised yet Jacob's sons killed them all! Even if it was because their sister had been "defiled" she had not been raped, and Shechem did want to marry her.
That whole story is worrying for me. Reply

Related Topics
This page in other languages