top of page

Vayishlach – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Uncertainty, regret for our actions and inactions and reflection are all features of our lives. All those themes are touched upon in the Sedra this week. The uncertainty is even reflected in the text which starts, not at the beginning of Chapter 32 where Laban blesses his children, but four verses on

וַיִּשְׁלַח יַעֲקֹב מַלְאָכִים לְפָנָיו, אֶל-עֵשָׂו אָחִיו
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother

There is ambiguity within the text. Once Jacob meets Esau the rabbis chose to place six dots above the letters of the word "vayishakehu” – “and he kissed him”. The suggestion is that the text can be read indifferent ways. Rashi makes reference to a rabbinic dispute over the sincerity of Esau's kiss. Esau is often portrayed as a figure of hatred or dispute.

What regrets would Jacob have reflected upon at the end of his life?

He was present when his wife Rachel dies and is buried by the wayside at Shechem. His mother Rebecca died while he was away. There is a strange episode recording the death of Deborah, the servant of Rebecca. No explanation is given of why she was with Jacob but he honours her in death. We are not told of the death of Leah but Jacob does make sure she is buried with Rebecca, Sarah, Abraham and Isaac at Machpelah

When his daughter Dinah is abducted, וְהֶֽחֱרִ֥שׁ יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב, “Jacob kept silent”. It would be his sons and her brothers, Simeon and Levi, who took revenge. Jacob then blames them for putting him in peril.

Later he will follow the same path taken by his father Isaac, favouring one child, Joseph. He fails to remember the consequences of favouritism. When he meets Pharaoh in Egypt he famously exclaims

My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.

After his struggle with the angel he was given the name “Israel” but he does not use it. It will be the name of his descendants. There is a Midrash

There are three names by which a person is called: one which their parents call them, one which people call them, and one which they earn for themselves. The last is the best one of all.

When we reflect on our lives it is the last, the one we have earned, that will come to define us.

4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Vayechi – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Vayechi is the last Parasha of Bereishit. Winston Churchill used the phrase “the end of the beginning but not the beginning of the end” after the Battle of Britain in the 1940’s. It could well apply t

Vayigash – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

The Joseph story fills the last 4 chapters of Bereishit. This week, Vayigash, is the longest of them all. In the Torah scroll there are no paragraph breaks since we read Miketz last week. We continue

Miketz – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

How do we maintain our Jewish identity in a strange land? That has been a question that resonates throughout our history. There are times when we consider our own land is estranged from us! On Shabbat


bottom of page