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Vayishlach Aliyah Summary

Vayishlach Aliyah Summary

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General Overview: In this week's reading, Vayishlach, Jacob returns to Canaan, but is fearful of his brother Esau. They meet and make peace. Jacob wrestles with an angel, and his name is changed to Israel. Jacob's daughter Dinah is abducted by the prince of Shechem. Shimon and Levi destroy the city of Shechem and liberate Dinah. Rachel dies while giving birth to Jacob's twelfth son, Benjamin. Isaac dies.


First Aliyah: Jacob was on his way home to his father Isaac after twenty years of absence, having fled Canaan to escape his brother Esau's wrath. As a peaceful overture, Jacob now sent ahead messengers to Esau with a reconciliatory message. The messengers returned with an ominous report: Esau is coming to "greet" Jacob with a troop of 400 men. Jacob was distressed. He divided his family and belongings into two groups—to allow one group to flee while the other was engaged in battle. He then prayed, calling upon G‑d's promise to protect him.


Second Aliyah: In an attempt to pacify Esau, Jacob sent him a lavish gift, consisting of hundreds of heads of cattle and sheep. He sent this gift in increments, one herd at a time. That night Jacob crossed the Jabok River with his family, and after all had crossed but him, he encountered an angel – Esau's archangel – who wrestled with him until dawn. Though the angel was unable to prevail over Jacob, he dislodged Jacob's sciatic nerve, causing him to limp. When the angel wished to leave, Jacob refused to let him go until he blessed Jacob. The angel blessed Jacob and informed him that his name would eventually be changed to Israel.


Third Aliyah: The Torah informs us that we don't eat the sciatic nerve of otherwise kosher animals because of the wrestling episode mentioned in the previous section. Esau arrived. Jacob respectfully approached his brother, who then ran towards him and embraced him, as they both wept.


Fourth Aliyah: Jacob's family approached and greeted Esau. Despite Esau's objections, Jacob prevailed upon him to accept the gift he had sent ahead. Esau offered to accompany Jacob on his trip home, but Jacob declined the gesture. Esau returned to his home in Se'ir, and Jacob proceeded to the city of Sukkot. Eventually Jacob arrived at the outskirts of the city of Shechem, where he purchased a plot of land and erected an altar to G‑d.


Fifth Aliyah: Jacob's daughter, Dinah, ventured out into the city of Shechem, when Shechem, also the name of the crown prince of the city, abducted and violated her and kept her hostage. Chamor, the governor of the city, approached Jacob and informed him that his son Shechem was infatuated with Dinah and desired her hand in marriage. Jacob's sons slyly agreed to the proposition, provided that all the men of the city would circumcise themselves. Upon the urging of Chamor and Shechem, the Shechemites agreed to the proposal. On the third day following their mass circumcision, Dinah's two brothers, Simon and Levi, entered the vulnerable city, killed all its male inhabitants, and liberated Dinah from Shechem's home. Jacob was displeased by this act, fearing reprisal from the neighboring Canaanites. Nonetheless, Jacob traveled on, and "the fear of G‑d" was upon the surrounding cities and they did not pursue Jacob and his family. Jacob arrived in Canaan, in Beth-El, and G‑d appeared to him, blessed him, and changed his name to Israel.


Sixth Aliyah: Jacob's family continued on towards Hebron. While en route, Rachel, Jacob's beloved wife, passed away while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. Jacob buried her on the spot, on the roadside leading to Bethlehem. They traveled yet further, and Jacob's eldest son, Reuben, interfered with his father's marital life. At long last, Jacob arrived in Hebron. Isaac died, and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah alongside his wife and parents. The Torah now lists the wives and descendents of Esau, who left Canaan and settled in Se'ir.


Seventh Aliyah: This section enumerates the princes of the original Se'irite natives, as well as the monarchs of that land that descended from Esau.

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November 28, 2012
Jacob's Journey
His self confidence from the Divine protection he received helped Jacob to overcome many obstacles.
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