Many of the concepts in Chassidus in this Sedra are very difficult although the story so far sounds deceptively simple.

Having learned of Avraham as Chesed and Yitzchok as Gevurah , we see that each extreme yielded imperfection. To Avraham was born Yishmael, and to Yitzchok, Esav. We will now learn together of Yaacov, relevant to each individual, as the specific father of all tribes of Israel. Yaacov is the middle perfect path of Tiferes (balance, perfection). No extreme of Chesed or Gevurah here. This perfection yielded a perfect bed. The twelve sons of Yaacov were all tzaddikim, founders of our nation and complete in every way.

The Sedra Vayishlach is fundamental to every Jew’s existence because it forms the grid of Am Yisrael’s mission in life.

As mentioned, the story sounds simple.1 Esav, exhausted from hunting, sells the spiritual priority he has as eldest son to Yaacov. Under instruction from their mother, Yaacov then impersonates his brother in order to successfully receive his father’s blessing. When Esav discovers the position, he looks to kill Yaacov who, again at his mother’s bidding, escapes to her brother, his uncle Lavan. Having lived with him for twenty years, during which time he was cheated by Lavan in relation to marriage, money and property, he finally leaves Lavan. On his way back to Eretz Yisrael he travels to meet Esav, still his sworn enemy. The Sedra begins by telling us that Yaacov sent “melochim ” to Esav. “Melochim ” in Hebrew means “messengers” and it also means “angels”. Rashi explains they were angels, real angels. Yaacov then, incredibly, reports to Esav that he has been “strangering” with Lavan. Rashi explains that “strangering” has the numerical equivalent of 613 which are the 613 mitzvos given to Am Yisrael and which, by implication he kept while with Lavan. Notwithstanding that his uncle was a manipulative lying thief, he kept all of the 613 mitzvos available during his stay.

Now, every reader must immediately have some questions.2 Firstly, why was Yaacov in such a hurry to meet Esav, a brother sworn to kill him? Secondly, when he meets him, what is the point of telling a man, who is not the slightest bit interested in Torah and/or mitzvos, that he had been scrupulous about keeping the 613 mitzvos? Finally, how is this relevant to us trying to read while the pager beeps and the children cry?

It is difficult for ordinary people to talk of distinctions in regard to Tzaddikim. Nevertheless the tzaddikim of the Gemara were in awe of the tzaddikim of the Mishnah, who in turn were in awe of the Prophets, who in turn were in awe of Moshe Rabbeinu, who in turn was in awe of the Avos, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov. The level of Yitzchok is therefore simply incomprehensible to us. Yet, he wanted to give to Esav, as we shall see, the Blessing upon which depended the destiny of the world! Why? Doesn’t a tzaddik of such incomprehensible level know the fact of, and difference between, a good son and a bad son?

Deeper, Yitzchok knew that he had before him the future of Am Yisrael in Yaacov, and the future of the gentile nations before him in Esav. He knew furthermore that Esav stood for physicality; dominating and building a world according to the perfection of nature. Yaacov on the other hand, stood for spirituality; bringing G‑dliness into physicality. The future of the universe depended upon the person to whom Yitzchok gave his blessing. Deliberately, he chooses to give this blessing to Esav, asking him to bring him tasty morsels to eat. (Although “tricked” no reader could be foolish enough to imagine him really fooled). Nevertheless, he did allow the behavior of his wife and Yaacov to influence the direction of that blessing, and he in fact gave the blessing to Yaacov. What then was really going on? Can anyone really believe the future of the universe was in the hands of, on the one hand a tzaddik of the stature described, and on the other someone who simply wanted a delicious meal?!

Chassidus explains3 the blessing was for elevation and refinement of all physical matter (personified in eating and drinking). The blessing Yitzchok was to give, was to establish the process of elevation and refinement of our total environment from inert matter through growing things to animals and finally, humanity.

Yitzchok wanted to accomplish this in one step — direct to the nations of the world. His wife and Yaacov understood that this had to be achieved through the conduit of Am Yisrael. So this was the critical question. Can this blessing go to the nations of the world (the world itself) directly, or does it need to flow through Am Yisrael? The point of the maneuvers of Rivkah and Yaacov was that the berachah must flow through Am Yisrael. Am Yisrael is Yaacov.

Deeper still, Yaacov understood that he still could not pass this blessing to Esav direct. It still required the primary conduit of Lavan. (It is explained in Chassidus that this is because Lavan, although evil, came from a very high level of spirituality.4 It was for this reason that Yaacov needed to tell Esav that he had been living with Lavan. The refinement of Esav could not begin without the successful conclusion of the refinement of Lavan.)

We are at a mesmerizing moment in Torah; Yaacov has finished with Lavan, Yaacov has brought the blessing which could not be given by Yitzchok direct to Esav through Lavan to the feet of Esav. Yaacov understood that it had to come through him. Rivkah understood it. Yaacov’s understanding that his is the sacred charge to refine the world, through Lavan (first through Chochmah , Binah and Daas). It is now time to come to Esav.

However, Yaacov finds Esav unready. It is too early. Esav is still unprepared. Am Yisrael must still further refine and elevate the world. It will do this through their long golus (exile) and in fact this is in essence, the purpose of our golus. The world has witnessed the process as HaShem has moved us from Babylon, Greece, Rome, England, France, Spain and Central Europe. The power to do this flows to us from Yaacov.

Sedra Vayishlach is a focus on the relationship of Am Yisrael being charged with the job of bringing G‑dliness into physicality. Yitzchok hoped to pass the blessing to the rest of the world direct. In fact it was necessary for the process to be commenced through Yaacov and carried out by Am Yisrael.

This is the week for consciousness of this fundamental relationship. We are to bring G‑dliness to the world with the power invested in us by inheritance. The details of this process will be spelt out progressively through this book. This is the week when concentration on this sacred task generally will bear fruits of knowing our purpose and seeing our destiny. With our purpose and destiny in mind we can begin to see order in chaos.