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Chumash-Vayishlach     Gen. Rabbah


(5750) Rashi (Gen. 33:16): "Esau returned on…his way". The necessity according to the simple understanding of the verse that the "four hundred men that went with him slipped away one by one".

The reason that Rashi cites that G-d recompensed them in the days of David. And the differences between Rashi to that of the Midrash (Gen. Rabbah 78:19);

The connection to the redemption of the Alter Rebbe on Yud-Tes Kislev in a manner of "Padah b'Shalom Nafshi" (G-d has redeemed my life in peace)  

(Vol. XXXV 35 Pg 143)


On the verse, (Gen 33:16):

“So Esau returned on that day on his way to Seir” (וישב ביום ההוא עשו לדרכו שעירה)

Rashi cites the words, “So Esau returned on that day on his way” and states:

“Esau alone (returned) whereas, the four hundred men that had gone with him slipped away from him, one by one”

The commentators have already debated where Rashi knows, according to the simple meaning of the verse, that the four hundred men slipped away from Esau, and that they did not go with him.

As it states regarding Yaakov that “And Jacob traveled to Succoth” and it does not mention the “people that were with him” (since they were subordinate to him). So too also regarding Esau, Scripture did not deem it necessary to delineate them, since they were subordinate to him.

The Rom (R' Eliyahu Mizrachi) differentiates that since Esau requested from Yaakov to,

 “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me”,

it was necessary for Scripture to explain that the people did not remain with Yaakov. For Yaakov did not want this ‘favor’ (טובה).

However, the other commentators have already disagreed with him.

For this aspect is already understood from Yaakov‘s answer,

“Why (do) that? May I find favor in my master's eyes"

(And as Rashi explains, “(Why) should you do me a favor that I do not need?”, “May I find favor . . And now you shall not pay me any reward”)

The Gur Aryeh writes that Rashi is precisely commenting, for,

“It should have stated, “and Esau returned on that day’. (וישב עשו ביום ההוא). Why does it state, “On that day Esau returned” (וישב ביום ההוא עשו). However, the meaning of this is that he returned on that day. Who exactly returned – Esau and not his men”.

Seemingly, even this explanation requires examination:

For it is the style of Scripture to speak in this manner. As we find in many places like this.

(For example, previously in Parshat Lech Lecha, as it states, “He divided (his men) against them at night, he and his servants“. And as Rashi explains, “According to its plain meaning the verse should be inverted (as if to read:) "He divided himself, he and his servants, against them, at night”).

It is also not understood why Rashi cites in the heading of the comment, also the word “on his way” (לדרכו). He only explains the words, ye

Seemingly it appears that Rashi’s necessity to explains that the verse means el is not from the precise wording, but rather from the gist of the words of the verse (that are cited in the heading) – “Esau returned etc.”, as will be explained.

2. In the conclusion of Parshat Vayetze, it is told that when Yaakov fled from Lavan, Lavan (and his relatives) pursued Yaakov, and if it were not for G-d’s coming to Lavan in a night vision, and warning him from speaking to Yaakov, “good or bad”, he would have harmed him.

According to this, it is difficult to understand, in our case. For Esau’s desire to harm Yaakov was much greater that Lavan’s, as it states,

“Esau hated Yaakov . . I will then kill my brother, Yaakov“.

Moreover, for this very purpose, he went to meet Yaakov with four hundred men, since this hatred had fomented within him in the course of many years. Therefore, how is it possible that he was completely assuaged from his scheming and returned to his way?

In addition, although when Esau saw Yaakov, it states,

“Esau ran toward him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept”.

Not only according to Rashi’s first comment there that, “he did not kiss him wholeheartedly”, is it certainly difficult to understand why he did not persist in his evil scheme.

However, even according to Rashi’s second comment (Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai’s view) that,

“His compassion was moved at that time, and he kissed him wholeheartedly.

Rashi precisely notes that it was just “at that time” (באותה שעה)

(For this is the reason that there are “dots over” (the word “and kissed him”). For dots over a word in all places depicts a restriction on that phrase (מיעוט בהמנוקד) which has dots over it. Thus, although he kissed him “wholeheartedly”, nevertheless it was not true love (אהבה אמיתית), just temporary – “at that time” (רק דרך עראי, "באותה שעה").

On the contrary. In the second part of the comment itself Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai prefaces,

“It is a well-known tradition that Esau hates Jacob” (הלכה היא, בידוע שעשו שונא ליעקב)

As it is explained in another place (Likkutei Sichos Vol 35 Pg. 150) the precise wording,

“It is a “Halacha” that Esau hates Jacob“

Indicates that Esau’s hatred for Yaakov is an aspect of “Halacha”) – for just as it is not possible for there to be a nullification or change in the Halachot of Torah, so too Esau’s hatred is constant and everlasting.

(This is also why Rashi precisely writes,

“But his compassion was moved at that time, and he kissed him wholeheartedly.”

This is similar to what is found in “Halacha”, namely that there is an aspect of “a temporary ruling” (הוראת שעה) where something is allowed to be done that is not in accordance with Halacha (like Eliyahu on Mount Carmel). However, even then, the Halacha is in force and does not change. Rather there is a ruling, for that time only, to act contrary to Halacha. So too is it in our aspect. Even at that time, Esau’s hatred for Yaakov was not nullified (for it is a “Halacha”). Rather, at the time, he kissed him wholeheartedly.)

From this is it understood, why after this, Esau returned to a state of visible hatred of Yaakov. So much so, that even Yaakov was concerned about this. As Rashi explains on Yaakov’s words to Esau,

“Because I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of an angel, and you have accepted me”.


“Yaakov mentioned that he saw the angel in order that he (should) fear him and say, “He saw angels and was saved. From now on, I will not be able to prevail against him.” – (for this was already after he “kissed him”)

Also Rashi’s words on the verse, “Until I come to my master, to Seir”,

(that Yaakov did not want Esau to travel with him, but that “let my master go ahead before his servant, and I will move (at) my own slow pace, according to the pace of the work that is before me”)

“He told him of a longer journey, although he intended to go only as far as Succoth. He said (to himself), “If he intends to harm me, he will wait until I come to him,” but he did not go (to Seir)”

Thus we see that even Yaakov was concerned that Esau wanted to do him harm.

According to this, one could additionally say that Yaakov was concerned that this is Esau’s intent in requesting,

“I will go alongside you."

And also,

"Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.”

Namely, that Esau was seeking out ways to carry out his scheme during that time (and this is the reason that Yaakov did no consent to this, for he realized this.)

According to all this, it is puzzling:

Why did Esau immediately return “on that day”, and he did not persist in his scheming to harm Yaakov?

To answer this Rashi states,

“Esau alone (returned) whereas, the four hundred men that had gone with him slipped away from him, one by one””.

Therefore, Esau did not have the ability to do anything against Yaakov (who traveled with a great entourage etc.”) since he remained alone. Therefore, “Esau returned on that day on his way”.

3. According to this, Rashi’s precise wording in stating, “slipped away from him one by one’ is also understood:

For seemingly, how does Rashi know this (namely that they did not all travel together at the same time). In addition, what is the ramification of this?

There are those who explain that since he said to him, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me” it is proof that he still had men with him. Moreover, one cannot say that after this, they all slipped away. For why would they remain until now and not abandon him immediately. However, one must say that they slipped away one by one in order that Esau not notice that they were leaving. Therefore, at the time that he said, “Let me leave with you some of the people etc.”, there were still a few left that were with him”.

Others explain that that Rashi is stating this from logic (מסברא). For since “Esau was their master, they were probably afraid to leave without his permission. Therefore, they fled and stole away from him, one by one.”

Whatever the manner, the question, ‘what is the ramification of how they abandoned him?’ – whether it was all at once or one by one, remains.

According to the aforementioned, one could say that Rashi is innovating, that with this, it more so emphasizes, that Esau did not change at all. On his part, he continued to attempt to carry out his scheming to harm Yaakov. However, it is just that he remained alone. The proof of this is that even when the four hundred men abandoned him, his hatred for Yaakov was not assuaged.

This is proven from that which they did not detach themselves from Esau, all at once, visibly (to revolt against Esau’s will). It is just that they slipped away one by one. In other words, they continued to remain with Esau in order to battle Yaakov. It is just that they were afraid for their lives, and therefore they slipped away and fled.

(The reason for their fear is understood according to Rashi’s previous comment. Namely, that Esau and his men,

“Encountered groups of angels, who were shoving him and his men and asking them, “To whom do you belong?” . . They (the angels) said (to one another), “Hit (them), hit (them)!” (until Esau’s men retorted,) “He is Jacob’s brother.”)

If so, it is all the more proof that Esau did not change his heart, at all.

One could add and provide better understanding (ולהמתיק) according to the aforementioned Rashi on the verse “until I come to my master etc.”:

“He told him of a longer journey, If he intends to harm me, he will wait until I come to him,” but he did not go (to Seir). So when will he go? In the days of the Messiah, as it is said: “And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau.”

One could say that with this, Rashi is alluding that Esau’s hatred for Yaakov, in a manner of “Halacha”, is (not just within Esau himself, but rather) also in the whole nation of Edom. (בכללות האומה דעשו)

(This is also understood from Rashi’s comment before this, on the verse “one kingdom will become mightier than the other kingdom” “kingdom: לְאֹם always means sovereignty (מלכות)-when one rises, the other will fall”)

Therefore, “He told him of a longer journey“ until the time of the Moshiach (עת קץ). For until then, there is the “Halacha” that “Esau hatres Yaakov”, and his intent is to harm him.

This is why Rashi precisely comments that even among Esau’s men, the hatred of Yaakov, of was not nullified, and that they, in essence really wanted to fight with him. However, due to their fear of him, they slipped away and fled for their lives

4. In this vein, one can also explain Rashi’s comment here:

Rashi states:

“Where did the Holy One, blessed be He, recompense them? In the days of David, as it is said: “(and none of them escaped) except four hundred young men who rode on the camels”

This is puzzling. For, seemingly, this is just the words of Aggadah, and are not an aspect of simple understanding of the verse. Therefore, what reason is there to cite it in Rashi’s commentary on Torah?

(Which only comes to explain simple understanding of the verse, or an Aggadah that resolves the words of Scripture). Yet Rashi does not preface that they are words of Aggadah).

Moreover, Rashi’s expression “Where did the Holy One, blessed be He, recompense them?” (והיכן פרע) is even more puzzling. For it implies that this is clear, according to simple understanding of the verse, that they deserve reward, and the question is just “where did He recompense them”?!

One could answer this, according to the aforementioned Rashi regarding the daughters of Lot. For there, Rashi explains that the younger one who “named him using a ‘refined expression’” (euphemistically- בֶּן עַמִּי,) was “rewarded in the time of Moshe etc.” Therefore, we learn from this that although her general conduct was not befitting, nevertheless she received reward for the detail that “she named him using a refined expression”. We also learn from this that the payment of this reward can be after many generations. Therefore, this is what Rashi also explains here. Namely, that, “where” was the payment of the reward of these four hundred men? And he explains, “in the time of David”.

However, it still requires examination:

It is simple, that Rashi’s aspect, in his commentary, in not to explain, in general, G-d’s conduct (when and how G-d recompensed Esau’s four hundred men). Rather it is certain that this is related to the understanding of this verse.

(The Gur Aryeh writes that Rashi is citing this a proof that they slipped away from Esau. However, this explanation requires extreme examination for “your guarantor himself requires a guarantor” (ערבך ערבא צריך – Note: meaning that the person (or aspect) who you want to rely upon, is himself untrustworthy).

For what is the proof in the simple understanding (Pshat) that the saving of the four hundred men in David’s time was reward for the four hundred men of Esau’s men?!

Moreover, in general, what is lacking in proof from the wording of the verse (like the explanation of the aforementioned Gur Aryeh in Par. 1) or from the topic of the verse (as aforementioned Par.2) that it requires Rashi to add this proof?)

One must also consider Rashi’s precise wording:

  1. Rashi’s source is from the Midrash Bereshit Rabbah on that verse. However, there the wording is “when did He pay” (אימתי פרע). Yet Rashi changes and states, “and from where did He pay” (והיכן פרע)
  • In the Midrash, the wording is, “(And when did He pay etc.) further on (as it states), ‘and none of them remained except four hundred young men who rode on camels and escaped“.
  • Whereas in Rashi, the wording is, “In the days of David, as it is said: “except four hundred young men who rode on the camels”

            One must examine Rashi’s wording:

  • For on one hand it fits more to the explanation. For that is why he does not state plainly (like the Midrash), “further on” but rather adds and explains that this was in “the time of David”.
  • Yet on the other hand, regarding the actual reward, Rashi omits the words that delineate the reward. In other words, the beginning of the verse “and none of them remained” (for the rest were killed), as well as the conclusion of the verse “and escaped” (that they were saved)!
  1. On the other hand, even though Rashi is concise in citing the words of the verse, nevertheless, he is precise to cite the words “who rode on the camels”. This seemingly does not add to the understanding of the reward.

5. However, according to what has been previously explained, namely that Rashi’s intent is to precisely note and emphasize that the hearts of even the four hundred men had not changed for good, at all, one could say that that this is also his intent in the continuation of his comment. Namely, that it is to strengthen this concept – that in the manner of the reward of these men, it emphasized how, in essence, they did not change for good.

(Therefore, Rashi precisely states “and from where did He pay” (והיכן פרע) (and he does not state, “and when”). For here, it does not matter when they were paid, but in what manner G-d recompensed them. This is included in the question, “and where” (והיכן). In other words, not just “at what time”, but rather in what aspect and manner).

On this Rashi brings that this was, “in the time of David”, meaning that they battled against David. In other words, those who received reward were not Tzaddikim, but on the contrary, they fought against David, king of Yisroel. Moreover, the payment of reward was in this situation itself- at the very time that they fought against David, they were saved.

According to the aforementioned, one can understand the reason of the matter:

For this emphasizes the essential aspect that caused their receiving this reward. For Esau’s men did not have a change of heart. Moreover, the reason that they slipped away from Esau, was not because their hearts were swayed for good, but solely and just in order to save themselves (due to their fear of Yaakov as aforementioned). However, nevertheless, since in actuality Yaakov benefitted from this, for Esau remained alone and was not able to harm him, Therefore, they received reward. Moreover, it was such a reward that even though they fought against David, and they lost in the war, nevertheless, in actuality they were saved from certain death.

One could say that this is the reason why Rashi omits the beginning of the verse and its end, and just cites that they “rode on the camels”:

For his intent is not to magnify their reward (that they were saved, even though the rest were killed). Rather, on the contrary, to minimize it) in conjunction to that which there was no good intent, of Esau’s men, towards Yaakov).

To allude to this, Rashi cites just the words “rode on the camels”. In other words, there was no miraculous salvation here, for these four hundred men “rode on the camels”, and that is why they were able to flee.

In a sharper manner (ע"ד החידוד) one could add that in citing the words “rode on the camels”, Rashi is alluding to the statement of the Sages on the verse that contains this topic,

“And Rivka and her maidens arose and rode on the camels” - “Just as a camel has a sign of impurity as well as a sign of purity, so too Rivka gave rise to a Tzaddik and a Rasha”.

A semblance of this is in our case. For there was a mixture of good and bad. For in actuality, a benefit to Yaakov, sprouted from this, similar to a camel that “has a sign of impurity as well as a sign of purity.”

6. Parshat Vayishlach is always read in proximity to Yud-Tes Kislev, Chag HaGeulah of the Alter Rebbe, the author of the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch. According to the well-known words of the Shaloh (Rabbi Isaiah Halevi Horowitz), there is an allusion to the festivals of the year (including the rabbinic festivals) in the Parshiot of the week in which they occur. Therefore, it is understood that an allusion may be found to Yud-Tes Kislev in Parshat Vayishlach. This is in addition to the Iggeret HaKodesh (Epistle 2) that pertains to Yud-Tes Kislev in its topic and in its beginning “Katonti” (“I have become small/katonti from all the kindnesses etc.”) (The eighth verse in the eighth Parsha – Vayishlach)  

One can connect the aforementioned aspect in Rashi with the Geulah of Yud-Tes Kislev, according to the well-known words of the Alter Rebbe. Namely, that his Geulah was while he was reciting the verse,

“He redeemed my soul with peace (Padah B’Shalom) from the battle that came upon me, because of the many (people who) were with me”.

The explanation of this verse is explanation in many places. “Padah B’Shalom” means that the redemption itself is in a manner of peace. This explanation fits with that which is stated in the Yerushalmi on the words “because of the many (people who) were with me”, that it refers to Absalom’s men - that even they prayed for David’s victory.

The simple explanation of the saying of the Sages on this verse is, that at the very time that Absalom’s men were battling David, they prayed (in their hearts) for David’s victory. According to this, we find that this is similar to the aforementioned statement of the Rashbi regarding Esau, “It is a well-known tradition (Halacha) that Esau hates Jacob, but his compassion was moved at that time, and he kissed him wholeheartedly”.

This emphasizes two extremes:

  • For although “It is a well-known tradition (Halacha) that Esau hates Jacob”, and as aforementioned , the explanation of this is that Esau‘s hatred of Yaakov is like a Halacha where nullification is not applicable,
  • Nevertheless, it is possible to influence him, temporarily, that he should change to be a friend (יתהפך לאוהב)

(Similar to the aforementioned, that Absalom’s men prayed for David’s victory at the very time that they were fighting against him)

This is also the hint of Yud-Tes Kislev, the day of the Geulah of the Alter Rebbe. For this aspect, namely, to influence one who, at the height of his power, is antagonistic – so much so that it transforms him (temporarily) to be a friend - is connected with Pnimiyut HaTorah.

As it is explained in many places regarding the statement of the Rashbi “One is permitted to provoke the wicked” (מותר להתגרות ברשעים) (even when the “hour is smiling upon him”).

This is the power and strength of the Rashbi, namely to subdue evildoers when they are at the epitome of their power.

One can explain the specific relation to the Rashbi. For the Rashbi revealed Pnimiyut HaTorah, the hidden aspect of Torah (סתים דאורייתא), in which are revealed the hidden aspects of G-d (סתים דקוב"ה), and His Omnipotent power (הבלתי מוגבל) to subdue evildoers while they are in power.

From this, the connection to the Alter Rebbe is also understood. For in the revelation of Torat Chassidut Chabad, the Torah-teaching of the Rashbi was drawn into understanding and comprehension, in a manner that they should “be sustained from it“ (יתפרנסון מיניה). In other words, that each and every one is able to understand and comprehend it, to the point where it is united with his intellect (like food for the body that becomes “blood and flesh as his flesh“ (דם ובשר כבשרו).

Though spreading the wellsprings of the Torah, outward, we will merit to greet the Master, King Moshiach (נזכה לקאתי מר דא מלכא משיחא), and the fulfillment of the tidings “And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau”, immediately and now, mamosh.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach 5733, 5745


Gutnick Chumash pp. 143
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