This week's reading tells about Jacob returning from Haran to the Land of Israel, together with his wives and children. On the way, he sent messengers to Esau to appease him so that he should not kill him, as written at the end of last week's reading. (After Jacob received their father's blessings, Rebecca told him to flee to Haran, since his brother Esau wanted to kill him on that account.) Rashi writes that before the encounter with his estranged brother, Jacob prepared himself for three things: for giving a gift, for prayer, and for war.

We find the same idea on Yom Kippur. Part of the service of the High Priest on that day involved two goats. One was a sacrifice to G‑d and the other was the "scapegoat" to Azazel. It is written in the Zohar that this scapegoat is a gift to the Sitra Achara (the "Other Side" – the forces of impurity), to not prosecute against the Nation of Israel. After the sacrificing of the goat, the High Priest prayed for all the people of Israel.

It is further written in the Zohar that at each meal one should give a portion to the Sitra Achara and this is the idea of washing Mayim Acharonim ("the last waters" onto the fingertips before Grace after Meals).

The practical lesson that we should learn from this is, while it is necessary to fight with all of our power against the forces of evil, nevertheless, the victory will come to be only if the Other Side gets something. For example, a person cannot just be busy with the study of Torah or doing acts of kindness and fulfill the mitzvahs, without eating or sleeping. Since a person was created with a dual nature —a soul together with a material body - he is obligated to give his body its basic needs, even though that will strengthen its materialistic desires, because only then will he be able to properly study Torah and perform Mitzvahs.

Thus, if a person were to say, "I do not want to have any benefit whatsoever, I just want to be detached from the physical and to study Torah and fulfill the Mitzvahs, which are the Will of the Creator," he will not be able to do so. Rather, one should give the necessary share to the physical body. This is like the portion given to the Sitra Achara, just as Jacob gave presents to Esau. Then the Evil will leave them alone to fulfill the Mitzvahs, just as Esau, who represents the Sitra Achara, left Jacob alone to continue his journey. So too, if one wants to wage war with the Yetzer Hara which operates through the human body, he needs to give it a gift, the basic share that the body needs. Only after that one can wage war with the Yetzer Hara and overcome it.

Nevertheless, we need prayer, because without help from G‑d Al-mighty we cannot overcome the evil impulses within us, as our Sages of blessed memory say, "If G‑d would not help him, he would not be able to overcome his Yetzer Hara." The empowerment of the soul must come from Heaven, since a person is created with a physical body.

So now it has been explained why "Jacob prepared himself for three things: for giving a gift, for prayer, and for war."

Delivered orally; translated by David Devor from his notes and extensively edited by staff.

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