Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vayishlach Summary

Ya’akov (Jacob) makes preparations before facing his brother Esav (Esau). He divides his camp into two, so that in the event of war one half will be able to flee and survive, prays that G-d save him from his brother, and sends Esav gifts. During that night an angel comes and wrestles with Ya’akov and his hip is dislocated in the struggle. Ya’akov forces the angel to concede defeat and to bless him. The angel departs at daybreak, but to this day Jews are not permitted to eat the sciatic nerve in animals as a reminder of this battle.

Esav approaches with four hundred men. Ya’akov bows seven times before his brother, as do his wives and children. Esav doesn’t want to accept the gifts from Ya’akov, but because of his urging he finally takes them. Esav offers to accompany Ya’akov but Ya’akov refuses the offer, preferring to proceed at his own pace. Esav returns to Se’ir, while Ya’akov goes to Succoth. Ya’akov then sets up camp near the town of Shechem, and erects an altar there.

Leah’s daughter, Dina, wanders out to visit the local girls. She is seen by Shechem, son of the chief of the region, Chamor the Hivite. He seduces her, rapes her, and then falls in love with her. Shechem asks his father to get him Deena as a wife. Ya’akov’s sons demand that as a dowry, all the men of the city must be circumcised. Chamor and Shechem agree, and persuade all their subjects to allow themselves to be circumcised. On the third day, when the men are in the greatest pain, Shimon and Levi come and kill the men of the city, including Shechem and Chamor. When Ya’akov chastises them, they reply “Should he have been allowed to treat our sister like a harlot?”

Ya’akov instructs his entourage to get rid of their idolatrous artefacts in preparation for going to Bet-El. When they arrive in Bet-El, Ya’akov builds an altar at the site where G-d had appeared to him when he was originally fleeing from Esav. While there, Rivka’s nurse, Devorah, dies and is buried in a place named Alon Bochot (Weeping Oak). G-d appears to Ya’akov and renames him Yisrael (Israel). He also confers upon him the blessing originally given to Avraham, and promises the land of Israel to his descendants. As Ya’akov and his family approach Efrat, Rachel goes into labour. She gives birth to a son and names him Ben-Oni (Son of my sorrow), but Ya’akov calls him Benyamin (Benjamin, son of the right). Rachel dies and is buried on the road to Efrat.

The Torah gives a complete listing of all of Ya’akov’s sons. Ya’akov returns to his father, Yitzchak, in Kiryat Arba. Yitzchak lives to the age of 180, and when he dies is buried by his sons Esav and Ya’akov in the cave of Machpela. The Torah lists the descendants of Esav, also known as Edom. It also records the descendants of Se’ir, the original inhabitant of Esav’s country. The portion ends with the names of the twelve kings who ruled the land of Edom

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