Friday, December 12, 2008

Everybody is out to get Eisav — Parshas Vayishlach


A lot of Shakesperian action in the last two parshios — on the spiritual level. Drama upon drama in the play of forces of essence and superficiality.

Among the people who tried to make Eisav better, thereby utilizing the amazing potential he had and bringing forth Era of Mashiach (which, of course, would be called something else… like, “Era of Dira B’Tachtoinim”) were:
  • Rivka (one has to assume — since she wasn’t too worried about one of her sons having a tendency to idolatry)
  • Yitzchok (in the last week’s parsha)
  • Leia (was destined to; ended up marrying Yakov)
  • Yakov (in this week’s parsha)
  • Dina, Leia’s daughter (was destined to; ended up being left behind by Yakov, who meanwhile became Yisroel; Dina was then raped, ostracized by her brothers and married Yosef)
* * *
What does this mean?

Eisav’s soul was a that of Baal Teshuva extraordinaire. He was naturally attracted to idolatry. He was the man of the world. He was interested in using spiritual to help him with the physical. He was a smart, resourseful, cunning, powerful man, son and grandson of holy people.

When Rivka realized that she had twins, she knew what was up: a standard model of Keser (the pre-sphera of the Seder Hishtalshelus, the chain of spiritual Tree of Life piercing the Universe). There is the essence, pnimi, and there is the outward aspect, makif. Pnimi is higher than makif. But makif also consists of two parts: pnimi of makif and makif of makif. Makif of makif (external of external) is lower than pnimi proper. But pnimi of makif (internal of external) is higher than anything.

If you are confused, think of it this way: something essential is higher than something superficial. But reveal the essence of the superficial, and you are going even higher.

So, Rivka tried (apparently) to bring out the essence of her second, superficial son. Didn’t work out. She realized she must invest her efforts into the other son, Yakov, who meanwhile received Eisav’s inheritance (step 1). Yitzchok wanted to bless Eisav to draw out his essence, but Yakov (supported by Rivka) got the blessing for himself (step 2). Instead, Eisav’s father blessed him that he would get his brother’s help to reveal his essence by subjugating himself to his brother (bittul) — something Eisav did not find very exciting.

* * *

Let’s shift our focus away from Eretz Kna’an for a second. Rivka had a brother, Lavan. He had two daughters: Leia and Rochel. The eldest, Leia, was “outgoing” (as we learn from the meforshim for this parsha), but in a positive sense — not in a masculine way of conquering but in a feminine way of kind influence. A perfect match for Eisav; a perfect opportunity to draw out his essence. Leia was not really happy about this prospect, however, and cried a lot (as a result, her eyesight suffered, making her less beautiful — ever saw the thick glasses frum girls wear?).

No reason to cry: Lavan (“the White” — hinting at the lofty level of his source) tricked the trickster Yakov and forced him to marry Leia. Bam! — Yakov got Eisav’s another secret weapon (step 3).

* * *

Fast-forward twenty years. Yakov is leaving Lavan. He meets with Eisav. He is ready for Dira B’Tachtoinim to happen. He sends his spiritual forces (angels) of pnimiyus to “convert” Eisav, reveal his essence and usher in the Era of Heaven on Earth. Eisav refuses to cooperate. As a result, two things happen.

First, Yakov leaves Dina (Leia’s daughter, who, like her mother, was destined to marry Eisav and bring about the necessary change in him) behind him. As a result, she “goes out” (just like her mother); she is raped; her brothers have conflict with locals; Dina is ostracized, moved to Egypt and ends up marrying Yosef (who bring the whole family to Egypt, institutes socialism in the whole land, which results in the family’s slavery and eventual Exodus from Egypt and granting of the Torah). Step 4.

In addition, Eisav sends his spiritual forces in a form of an angel to battle with Yakov. Yakov prevails in the fight and forces the angel to bless him. The forces of superficiality, of power, of dominance, of being part of the world leave Eisav and move to Yakov in the final step 5. Yakov becomes Yisroel — not a man of inwardness, of Torah study, of yeshiva setting, of cunning, but the man of outwardness, of dealing with the outside world, of domination. The fate of the world is sealed: the descendants of Yakov will be instrumental in revealing pnimiyus in chitzoinius, essence in the shell, by creating Dira B’Tachtoinim, Dwelling Place for G-d in the Lower Realms.

Yisroel moves across the border into the Eretz Yisroel, as a prelude to later descent into Egypt. Rochel (Yakov’s natural wife) dies and takes role she always wanted — that of the Mother of the Children of Yisroel, the Jewish nation. Leia becomes Yisroel’s natural wife (the role she always wanted). The feminine force of “outgoing” influence through kindness joins forces of Yisroel (domination and participation in the world) and Yakov (internalization).


Eisav is of no more use to anyone. When he asks Yakov — I mean, Yisroel — to travel with him, his brother tells him to go and wait by his mountain. When the time comes, the descendants of Yisroel will come and elevate Eisav and the world. Descendants of Eisav convert in large numbers to Judaism. Those who do not convert form a mutant religion loosely based on Judaism, whose job becomes (according to Rambam) to prepare the world for the idea of monotheism and the Era of Mashiach.

* * *

Cool, huh? Based on Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings and my rabbi’s Torah class.

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