Parshas Vayishlach: The Two Worlds of Yaakov and Eisav
(Note: This article is based on a piece from the Alter Rebbe zy"a in Torah Ohr on Parshas Vayichlach and various sichas from the Lubavitcher Rebbe zy"a)
(Update: At the bottom of the article there is an audio shiur of Rav Burg giving over this piece of Torah. As it is a very complicated piece, it may be worthwhile to listen to the shiur and use the article as a reference point. Additionally, there are some added areas that Rav Burg expounded upon in the shiur that are not found in the article.)
וַיָּ֨רָץ עֵשָׂ֤ו לִקְרָאתוֹ֙ וַיְחַבְּקֵ֔הוּ וַיִּפֹּ֥ל עַל־צַוָּארָ֖יו כתיב צוארו וַֹיִֹשָֹׁקֵֹ֑הֹוֹּ וַיִּבְכּֽוּ:
And Esau ran toward him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. (Bereishis 33:4)
Yaakov Avinu finally confronts Eisav after having fled from him thirty four years earlier. The night before Yaakov successfully battled the Malach of Eisav and now Yaakov finds himself in Eisav's loving embrace. However, the word וַֹיִֹשָֹׁקֵֹ֑הֹוֹּ (and he kissed him) has a line of dots above it indicating that there is something going on beneath the surface.
Rashi: AND HE KISSED HIM — Dots are placed above the letters of this word, and a difference of opinion is expressed in the Baraitha of Sifri as to what these dots are intended to suggest: some explain the dotting as meaning that he did not kiss him with his whole heart, whereas Rav Shimon Bar Yochai said: It is a well known halacha that Eisav hates Yaakov but at that moment his pity was really aroused and he kissed him with his whole heart. (Sifri Bamidbar 69:2)
The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 78:9) quotes Rav Yannai as saying "... Eisav came, not to kiss Yaakov, but to bite him. Miraculously, Yaakov's neck turned to marble, and the wicked one blunted his teeth on it. Indeed, that is the meaning of they wept - Yaakov cried because of his neck; Eisav because of his teeth."
"These and these are the words of the living God." Whenever we have to varying opinions we are told that both are true. But how can that be true in this case? Either Eisav intended to harm Yaakov or he kissed him lovingly. It has to be either or! What is the inner meaning of this machlokes?
Furthermore, there are no dots above the word וַיְחַבְּקֵ֔הוּ (and he embraced him) which clearly indicates that the hug between Yaakov and Eisav was authentic. If the embrace came from a place of love, why would we assume that the kiss was not a legitimate expression of the way Eisav felt?
יב וַיֹּ֖אמֶר נִסְעָ֣ה וְנֵלֵ֑כָה וְאֵֽלְכָ֖ה לְנֶגְדֶּֽךָ: יג וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֗יו אֲדֹנִ֤י יֹדֵ֨עַ֙ כִּֽי־הַיְלָדִ֣ים רַכִּ֔ים וְהַצֹּ֥אן וְהַבָּקָ֖ר עָל֣וֹת עָלָ֑י וּדְפָקוּם֙ י֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד וָמֵ֖תוּ כָּל־הַצֹּֽאן: יד יַֽעֲבָר־נָ֥א אֲדֹנִ֖י לִפְנֵ֣י עַבְדּ֑וֹ וַֽאֲנִ֞י אֶתְנַֽהֲלָ֣ה לְאִטִּ֗י לְרֶ֨גֶל הַמְּלָאכָ֤ה אֲשֶׁר־לְפָנַי֙ וּלְרֶ֣גֶל הַיְלָדִ֔ים עַ֛ד אֲשֶׁר־אָבֹ֥א אֶל־אֲדֹנִ֖י שֵׂעִֽירָה: טו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר עֵשָׂ֔ו אַצִּֽיגָה־נָּ֣א עִמְּךָ֔ מִן־הָעָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתִּ֑י וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ לָ֣מָּה זֶּ֔ה אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵ֥י אֲדֹנִֽי: טז וַיָּ֩שָׁב֩ בַּיּ֨וֹם הַה֥וּא עֵשָׂ֛ו לְדַרְכּ֖וֹ שֵׂעִֽירָה:
Thereupon, he (Eisav) said, "Travel and we will go, and I will go alongside you."And he (Yaakov) said to him, "My master knows that the children are tender, and the flocks and the cattle, which are raising their young, depend upon me, and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die. Now, 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 and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my master, to Seir." Thereupon Eisav said, "Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me." But he said, "Why [do] that? May I find favor in my master's eyes." So Eisav returned on that day on his way to Seir.
The Medrash (Bereshis Rabbah 78:14) asks, we have searched the whole of scripture and did not find that Yaakov ever went to Eisav to the mountain of Seir… When will he come to him? In the Messianic era when the saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Eisav.
This is very difficult for us to understand. For thirty four years Yaakov has lived under the death threat of Eisav. Now the two brothers seem to have reconciled. Eisav is willing to travel alongside Yaakov and even when Yaakov demurs Eisav offers to leave some of his people with Yaakov. Why is Yaakov reluctant to actually make peace with Eisav? If Eisav is making a legitimate offer, why wouldn't Yaakov jump at the offer?
Creation of the World
In order to understand the inner meaning of the Yaakov and Eisav saga, we need to examine the very fabric of creation itself.
The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 3:9) tells us that creation was a process. God would create worlds and then destroy them until he created this world. Chassidus teaches us that this is not a psychical process but a spiritual one. Our current existence is born out of the process of creation and destruction. This world is built on the debris, so to speak, of the previous worlds. The initial worlds, as we will explain, were of a higher spiritual caliber and therefore the world could not actually come into existence but because these worlds were initially "created" we continue to have access to some of that energy.
The first world that Hashem created is called the Olam HaTohu, the world of chaos. This is a world of "much light and few vessels." Light represents the energy of the world. In the Olam HaTohu there is "much light", which means there is boundless and uncompromising energy. Love, discipline, beauty etc... are wonderful middos but if they are unbridled, if they are not contained by vessels they can harmful and destructive. An example of this is the love a spouse may have for their partner. Love is a beautiful middah to share with the one you love. Intimacy means exclusivity. If our love is boundless, if it is not contained by the boundaries of a relationship in an appropriate fashion, we will end up destroying the person we love. Sometimes this means that one spouse will cheat on another and in other cases it could mean that the relationship becomes codependent but the essential flaw is that there were not vessels that could contain this boundless energy.
After the creation of the Olam HaTohu, God created the Olam HaTikkun, the world of rectification. In contrast to the Olam HaTohu, the Olam HaTikkun is a world of limited light and many vessels. The containers of this world can direct and define the energies but the light is so much more limited. In the Olam HaTohu, love is boundless. In the Olam HaTikkun love is limited but as a result it is able to appropriately interact with other middos. When love interacts with discipline it is capable of a greater potency (even though the light is more diminished) because it fuels the relationship as opposed to overwhelming it. I love you and no one else. I love you appropriately. These are the refrains of the Olam HaTikkun.
The Zohar tells us that when the energy of the Olam HaTohu overwhelmed the vessels, the vessels shattered and became what we now experience to be the psychical world. In other words, our physical existence in the Olam HaTikkun is actually the broken containers of the Olam HaTohu. Everything that is holy in this world is a product of the balance of light and vessels from Olam HaTikkun and everything that is not holy is a function of the destruction of Olam HaTohu. However, within the physical world there are still remnants of the boundless light and energy of Olam HaTohu. Engaging the physical world in a holy way (Mitzvos) unleashes those sparks into the Olam HaTikkun and because this is a world of many vessels the boundless shards of light can be captured by the containers of this world. What we call history is actually a process of unleashing the sparks of Olam HaTohu into the containers of Olam HaTikkun. As we redeem more and more of the infinite potential of Olam HaTohu (as opposed to the finite energy of the world of tikkun) we transform our world into a more Godly place where chaos and order exist seamlessly.
This is the inner meaning of the Gemara (Pesachim 87b) which says, "The people of Israel were exiled among the nations only so that converts may be added to them." This is difficult to understand on a surface level because we know that Judaism actually instructs us to discourage Gentiles from converting. The deeper meaning is that Jews are gatherers of the sparks of Olam HaTohu that remain with us even in the Olam HaTikkun. When the Gemara speaks of adding converts to our ranks it means gathering the infinite energies contained within every element of Gods creation to bring about the ultimate rectification of our world. Had the Beis HaMikdash remained intact we would never have been exiled to the four corners of the world and we would have missed the opportunity to collect those sparks.
"I, God, will hasten it in its time." (Isaiah 60:22)
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) asks, if the redemption will come in “its time” then it has not been “hastened” and if it is “hastened” then it has not come in “its time.” The Gemara answers that if we are meritorious it will be hastened and if not then redemption will come in its time.
However, Mashiach being hastened is not the deepest and truest process. How is it that Mashiach will come sooner if we are meritorious? It will be because there will be an infusion of divine light from above overwhelming the imperfections of this world. The world will be in a rectified state but the inner nature of reality will not have changed. If Mashiach comes "in its time" it will be a slower and more painful process but the world will have undergone a fundamental shift. Instead of being overwhelmed by a divine light, the physical world will go through a transformation thus revealing the true nature of its inner Godly reality. This slower process of "in its time," is how the boundless sparks of the Olam HaTohu are revealed in our world of Olam HaTikkun, ushering in the era of Olam Haba.
Eisav embodies Olam HaTohu
The saga of Yaakov and Eisav is the representation of Olam HaTohu and Olam HaTikkun.
Eisav, as the first born, represents the initial creation of Olam HaTohu. Eisav's energy is boundless but unbridled. He is exceptionally strong but he uses his strength in a destructive fashion. Eisav is described as וַיֶּֽאֱהַ֥ב יִצְחָ֛ק אֶת־עֵשָׂ֖ו כִּי־צַ֣יִד בְּפִ֑יו. Yitzchak loved Eisav because he was cunning with his mouth. What does this mean? The Mishna in Avos tells us that the world is created with ten utterances. The world is spoken into being. Yitzchak saw in Eisav the chaotic aspects of speech which is why he is described as the one with a "cunning mouth." Yitzchak knew who Eisav was and saw through his lies. But these very lies excited Yitzchak. He saw in Eisav the infinite energy of Olam HaTohu and thought that it would be Eisav who could synthesize his boundless energy with the vessels of Yaakov Avinu. This is why Yitzchak desired to give his beracha to Eisav. The beracha would allow Eisav to complete his mission in this world by bringing together Tohu and Tikkun.
Alas, the vessels of Eisav had already shattered. Yitzchak did not understand this but Rivka, having grown up with Lavan (as we will explain later) did. Rivka did not merely dress Yaakov in Eisav's clothing, she had Yaakov take upon himself Eisav's role in this world. Now it would be Yaakov who would be tasked with gathering the energies of Olam HaTohu into his vessels of containment.
The Righteousness of Leah
The Gemara (Baba Basra 123a) asks, what does it mean that Leah had soft eyes (Bereishis 29:17)? Rav answers that this is a praise for Leah as Leah would sit at the crossroads and she would hear people who were journeying from Canaan say, "Rivka have two sons and Lavan has two daughters, the older daughter will marry the older son and the younger daughter will marry the younger son." (The Medrash Tanchuma says that Rivka and Lavan actually sent letters to each other agreeing to the shidduch of Eisav and Leah and Yaakov and Rachel.) Upon hearing people talk about her potential partner Leah would ask about the deeds of the older son. The travelers would tell Leah that Eisav is an evil man who engages in theft. When she would ask about the deeds of the younger son she was told that he was a complete man, a dweller in tents (Bereishis 25:27). Leah became so distraught about the prospect of marrying Eisav that she would cry and daven until her eyelashes fell out.
Why is Leah so distraught about marrying Eisav? Did she not have the ability to say no the shidduch? The passuk in Malachi (3:1) calls Eisav, senua (hated) and Leah is also called a senua (Bereishis 39:21). Why are Eisav and Leah hated? We hate what we don't understand. We hate what can't be contained by our minds, what doesn't make sense to us. The Olam HaTohu is beyond human comprehension. The light is too infinite for our finite minds (vessels) to contain. The souls of both Leah and Eisav originate from the Olam HaTohu. This is why there is a natural shidduch between the two of them. Yaakov and Rachel are also a natural shidduch as they both originate from the Olam HaTikkun. This explains why in the very same pasuk that describes Leah as having tender eyes, Rachel Imeinu is described as having "beautiful features and a beautiful complexion." Whereas Leah is hated, Rachel is loved. It does not, chas vishalom, mean that Yaakov hated Leah and loved Rachel but rather because Yaakov and Rachel had a common soul they "understood" one another. Her light could be contained by his vessels. Leah exudes a more powerful light and it cannot be contained by Yaakov's vessels thus she is a "senua."
Yaakov Embodies Tohu and Tikkun
The difference between Leah and Eisav is that while the vessels of Eisav shattered, the vessels of Leah remain intact. Leah inquires from those who knew of Eisav how her counterpart is managing in this world of tikkun and was distraught to find out that he was broken. She knew she could not share her life with Eisav. Though they originate from the same world, their lives have taken on very different meanings. The Medrash tells us (as does the Targum Yonasan ben Uziel) about a fascinating conversation that took place between Leah and Yaakov on the morning after their wedding. Yaakov had been under the impression that he had married Rachel the night before and now discovers that it was Leah he had spent the night with. Yaakov says to Leah, I see you and your father are a lot alike. Just as your father is a liar so are you. Leah responds, if my father and I are liars it is because we learned it from you (Yaakov deceived Yitzchak into giving him the beracha of Eisav). This Medrash is difficult to understand. It is true that Yaakov deceived Yitzchak but why does that give license to Leah to trick Yaakov? The Kozhnitzer Maggid and the Sefas Emes explain that Leah was answering Yaakov's question. When you, Yaakov, lied to your father and said you're Eisav you made me into your wife. You didn't just dress up in Eisav's clothing, you took on a part of his mission in life. A part of his soul, if you will. Your mother, Rivka, understood that Eisav's vessels had shattered and now either the energy of Yitzchak will be lost or Eisav will be overwhelmed by Yitzchak's divine light. Either way, you, Yaakov, have taken on Eisav's role in this world. Though the part of your soul that originates from Olam HaTikkun is deeply connected to Rachel, the Eisav aspect of your soul is deeply connected to me, Leah. I did not deceive you. Our marriage is a product of a new reality where you no longer have a twin brother but a dual identity.
This answers the question, if the Avos kept the entire Torah, how is it that Yaakov married two sisters? After dressing up as Eisav and taking on a part of his soul, Yaakov was no longer considered one person. Though he only had one body he holds two different souls from two distinct dimensions. His original soul from the Olam HaTikkun is married to Rachel but his acquired soul, with its origins in the Olam HaTohu, is married to Leah.
Understanding the dual identity of Yaakov gives us a deeper insight into his life.
Fourteen Years in Yeshiva
After running away from Eisav the first thing Yaakov does is spend fourteen years learning in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. Chazal tell us that in fourteen years Yaakov does not sleep. Instead, he spends every moment learning. What could Yaakov be so consumed by for fourteen straight years? Yaakov learned Torah with his father Yitzchak as well and we are not told of this level of dedication in those years? The Torah of Shem and Ever is the Torah of engaging the world. For fourteen years Yaakov immersed himself in pure Olam HaTikkun so that his vessels would be strong enough to contain the sparks of Olam HaTohu. Thus we see that the first time Yaakov sleeps is when he leaves the confines of Yeshiva and goes into the world. And in his very first sleep Yaakov has an illuminating dream. The angels of Eretz Yisrael leave him, ascending to shomayim, while the angels of chutz laaretz descend upon him, to escort him to the outside world. Yaakov is now engaging his second identity, that of Eisav, and so it is appropriate that from here on out that the malachim of Eretz Yisrael remain behind.
Robbed by Eliphaz
If Yaakov is to truly engage the outside world he must come with no prior possessions. Yitzchak had given Yaakov wealth in order to find a wife but Yaakov's mission is to gather the sparks of this world. As long as Yaakov is wealthy he won't have an urgent need to confront the world around him. Eliphaz is dispatched by Eisav to kill Yaakov and when he confronts Yaakov, Yaakov is able to convince him to take all his possessions instead because a poor man is considered as if he is dead. Why couldn't Eliphaz find Yaakov for the fourteen years he was in Yeshivas Shem V'Ever? According to our approach the answer is apparent. For fourteen years Yaakov was preparing himself to engage the Olam HaTohu, the physical world. It is only when he actually leaves Yeshiva that it is necessary for him to give up all of his possessions. If Yaakov maintained his wealth there would be no reason to work for Lavan and therefore no opportunity to gather those sparks. Though Eliphaz may not have had noble intentions, his attack on Yaakov is ultimately part of Hashem's plan to bring the world to it's ultimate rectification.
Left with no possessions and escorted by the malachim of chutz laaretz, Yaakov journeys to Charan. Charan, which means wrath, is an appropriate name for Yaakov's destination. Rashi (Bereishis 11:32) explains that Charan is the focus of God's wrath in this world. Charan is a representation of the Olam HaTohu. Just as Eisav is described as hated (see above) because he is not able to bu contained by the faculties of the mind, so too Charan is the focus of God's wrath in this world. It is the place that represents the concealment of God's infinite light and so it "frustrates" God so to speak.
Why does a perfect soul descend to our world? What can it gain by engaging a physical existence? The soul may be perfect but it is also childless. In descending to this world, the soul can express itself in the physical dimension and bring Godliness down into this world. This is the inner meaning of having children. The soul brings down other souls into this world. Yaakov arrived in Charan with nothing except his own wholesomeness. He left with wives, children and wealth. Yaakov amasses his fortune through the breeding of sheep. This represents the concept that Yaakov came to Charan to reveal the hidden light of the Olam HaTohu. This can only happen when the world nullifies it's external nature and reveals it's true essence. Sheep are generally docile creatures and therefore are representative of humility and nullification. The world is a "liar" in the sense that it claims to be it's own source but in truth it represents the most infinite Godly light. This is why Lavan is called a ramai, a liar. Yaakov engages the Lavan of Charan and through his humility (engaging in sheep) and brings Charan to it's necessary tikkun. Yaakov is clearly successful as Lavan's sons say "Yaakov has taken all that belongs to our father, and from our father’s possessions has created all of this wealth." (Bereishis 31:2) With nothing left to rectify Hashem tells Yaakov, "Return to the land of your forefathers and to your birthplace, and I will be with you." (Bereishis 31:3) Now that the Olam HaTohu has expressed it's true nature and has been contained by Yaakov's Olam HaTikkun there is no reason for him to remain in Chutz Laaretz. In fact, by the time Yaakov is done in Charan even Rachel and Leah sense that there is no spark left to be mined in the house of Lavan. There is no longer “a portion or inheritance for us in our fathers house.” (Bereishis 31:14)
Lavan's Stolen Idols
However, there was still one aspect of Lavan that had not yet been rectified. As we mentioned earlier, in order for the Olam HaTohu to come to it's full tikkun it cannot just be overwhelmed by a divine light. It needs to go through the full process of revealing on its own the inner nature of the infinite light it contains. Rachel Imeinu, like Yaakov, represented the Olam HaTikkun. As Yaakov's natural soulmate she too wants to reveal the divine light of her father Lavan. Whereas Yaakov went through the painstakingly slow process of allowing Lavan to reveal his inner beauty, Rachel overwhelmed Lavan by taking his teraphim, his household idols, with her. This is what Rashi means (31:19) when he quotes the Medrash in Bereshis Rabbah that Rachel sought to impede her father from further avodah zarah, and she therefore confiscated his teraphim before departing Charan. In contrast to Yaakov who allows Moshiach to come "in it's time," Rachel Imeinu wants to bring Mashiach in a "hastened" fashion by taking away the household (organic) idols of Lavan. While it appeared that the Olam HaTohu had yielded all of its sparks in truth it had been overwhelmed by the divine light of Rachel and therefore Lavan comes chasing after Yaakov.
Here we encounter a fascinating narrative from Lavan. "And Lavan said to Yaakov, "What have you done, that you concealed from me, and led away my daughters like prisoners of war? Why have you fled secretly, and concealed from me, and not told me? I would have sent you away with joy and with songs, and with drum and with harp. And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and daughters. Now, you have acted foolishly. I have the power to inflict harm upon you, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Beware of speaking with Yaakov either good or bad. But now, you have gone away, for you longed for your father's house, [but] why have you stolen my gods?" (Bereishis 31:26-30). More than anything the Olam HaTohu desires to be understood. It alone knows about its boundless energies and cannot understand why nothing can contain it. Though externally it may seem that Lavan battles with Yaakov, the secret of Lavan is that he wants to be defeated. Nothing would make him happier than for Yaakov to mine his sparks and allow him to express his infinite light. And so when Rachel steals his household idols and hastens the geula, Lavan is justifiably frustrated with Yaakov. Yaakov however, not knowing what Rachel has done, protests and claims his innocence. "And Jacob replied, and he said to Laban, "Because I was afraid, because I said, 'Lest you steal your daughters from me.The one with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our brothers, recognize for yourself what is with me, and take [it] for yourself." For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them." (Bereishis 31:31-32) Yaakov maintains that he has spent twenty-two years teaching Lavan humility and revealing his inner nature. He has not stolen anything in an attempt to hasten Mashiach's coming. He only left because his work was complete and to stay longer would mean that there would be the potential of losing the "family" that he had gained. But Yaakov did not know of the avodah of Rachel. Lavan searches for his teraphim unsuccessfully (Rachel had hidden them) and Yaakov grows annoyed. "And Jacob was annoyed, and he quarreled with Laban, and he said to Laban, "What is my transgression? What is my sin, that you have pursued me? For you have felt about all my things. What have you found of all the utensils of your house? Put it here, in the presence of my kinsmen and your kinsmen, and let them decide between the two of us." (Bereishis 31:36-37) From Yaakov's perspective the "utensils" of the house of Lavan contain no hidden idols. He has not tried to "hasten" the coming of Mashiach but he has allowed the process to unfold. In his own words, "I was [in the field] by day when the heat consumed me, and the frost at night, and my sleep wandered from my eyes. This is twenty years that I have spent in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your animals, and you changed my wages ten times. Had not the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, been for me, you would now have sent me away empty handed." (Bereishis 31:40-42) Yaakov insists that just as he put in fourteen years of sleepless immersion in Yeshiva, so too was he totally immersed in working for Lavan to liberate those sparks. It is not you, Lavan, who gave me my wealth, but it was the nullification before God Almighty that brought me success. Lavan does not accept Yaakov's argument. He knows the truth. He can feel it. He has not undergone a transformation. "And Laban answered and said to Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters, and the sons are my sons, and the animals are my animals, and all that you see is mine. Now, what would I do to these daughters of mine today, or to their children, whom they have borne? So now, come, let us form a covenant, you and I, and may He be a witness between me and you."So Jacob took a stone and set it up [as] a monument. And Jacob said to his kinsmen, "Gather stones," and they took stones and made a pile, and they ate there by the pile." (Bereishis 31:44-46) Lavan does not accept that Yaakov has actually acquired daughters, sons and wealth. He maintains that it still belongs to him. The sparks of Olam HaTohu have not actually been liberated. Your mission here in Charan is not yet complete. It may seem on the outside that redemption has occurred but in truth it has only been "hastened." And with this Lavan and Yaakov form a covenant. They part ways but the work has not yet been finished.
Sending Angels to Eisav
Having completed his time by Lavan, Yaakov now feels prepared to confront Eisav. Yaakov's time in Charan, mining the sparks of Olam HaTohu, is all a preparation to once again unite with Eisav. In Charan Yaakov experienced the union of his natural vessels with the boundless energy of Eisav. Now a reunion with his brother Eisav will bring Mashiach and the ultimate rectification to our world. Indeed, the Zohar (1:165a) points out that as opposed to when Yaakov left Canaan and dreamt that the malachim of Eretz Yisrael have left him, now upon reentry Yaakov is wide awake and the malachim of Chutz Laaretz come with him into Eretz Yisrael. The outside world, made up of the destruction of Olam HaTohu, is now under the dominion of Yaakov and can be brought into the kedusha (tikkun) of Eretz Yisrael.
"Yaakov sent angels before him to Eisav his brother." (Bereishis 32:4)
Rashi explains that though the Hebrew word Malachim can mean messengers and angels, in this case it means actual angels.
The Chassidic master Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch sees a deeper meaning in Rashi’s words. Yaakov sent the “actuality” of his angels to Esau, but kept their higher spiritual essence with him.
This is in line with the path we have taken in explaining this entire parsha. The mission of Yaakov is to be able to gather the infinite light from the finite form that it is attached to. Even a malach has some form and Yaakov is able to distinguish between the higher spiritual essence and the limited physical reality of the malach. The message being sent to Eisav is clear. Yaakov has mastered the art of holding onto the kedusha while engaging the physical and therefore Eisav no longer poses a threat to Yaakov.
This is further bolstered by the message Yaakov sends to Eisav:
וַיְצַ֤ו אֹתָם֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר כֹּ֣ה תֹֽאמְר֔וּן לַֽאדֹנִ֖י לְעֵשָׂ֑ו כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ עַבְדְּךָ֣ יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב עִם־לָבָ֣ן גַּ֔רְתִּי וָֽאֵחַ֖ר עַד־עָֽתָּה:
"And he commanded them, saying, "So shall you say to my master to Eisav, 'Thus said your servant Yaakov, "I have sojourned with Lavan, and I have tarried until now." (Bereishis 32:5)
Rashi tells us that when Yaakov sends word to Eisav that עִם־לָבָ֣ן גַּ֔רְתִּי (I have sojourned with Lavan) he is really saying and I kept all of the Taryag (613) Mitzvos. Of what significance is this to Eisav? The message Yaakov is sending is that while I have adapted your soul and engaged Lavan in Charan my vessels remain intact. Utilizing the 613 mitzvos I was able to harness the sparks of Olam HaTohu. Mitzvos don't remove us from the world. On the contrary, The Torah of Shem and Ever taught me how to contain the infinite sparks of Olam HaTohu into Olam HaTikkun.
Preparing for War
"The angels returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother, to Esau, and he is also coming toward you, and four hundred men are with him. Jacob became very frightened and was distressed..." (Bereishis 32:7) Having conquered the Olam HaTohu Yaakov is not expecting Eisav to oppose to him anymore. The prospect that the work is not yet complete, that Tohu and Tikkun have not yet been synthesized, frightens Yaakov. In response we find that Yaakov does three things. He davens to Hashem, sends gifts to Eisav and prepares for war. These three behaviors represent three different aspects of confronting the physical world. We daven to Hashem, recognizing that we cannot do this on our own. Teffilah is the expression of our humility that is necessary to nullify the Olam HaTohu before God Almighty. Next we send gifts to Eisav. We are ready to expend our own resources to elevate the physical world. Finally, we prepare for war. We know that engaging the world around us brings us into contact with negative influences that could chas vishalom derail us from our mission. We need to be prepared for the inevitable conflict that will arise so we can emerge victorious.
Fighting the Angel of Eisav
וַיִּוָּתֵ֥ר יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב לְבַדּ֑וֹ וַיֵּֽאָבֵ֥ק אִישׁ֙ עִמּ֔וֹ עַ֖ד עֲל֥וֹת הַשָּֽׁחַר
"And Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." (Bereishis 32:25)
The Gemara (Chullin 91a) tells us that Yaakov crossed over the stream together with his family but had forgotten some “pachim ketanim,” small earthenware jugs, and he returned to fetch them. Thus, the word “levado,” alone, can be read as “lekado,” meaning “for his jug.”
Rashi tells us that it was at this time that Yaakov was attacked by the Malach of Eisav. This is the truest test of his relationship with the physical world – is he returning for the pachim ketanim because of his attachment to the physical world or because he can find Godliness in even the smallest “containers?”
It is important to point out that Yaakov does not do battle with Eisav himself. Whereas Yaakov only sends the "mamash" of his angels to Eisav, Eisav sends his spirit to do battle with Yaakov. The essence of Eisav challenges Yaakov's authenticity. Have you, Yaakov, really taken on the role of Eisav? Do you embody his spirit and therefore engage the sparks of Olam HaTohu or are your vessels shattered as well?
The Gemara (ibid.) tells us of a machlokes regarding the appearance of the Eisav's malach. Rav Shmuel bar Nachmeini says that he appeared as an idol worshiper whereas Rav Shmuel bar Acha says that he appeared as a Talmid Chacham. The energy of Tohu is infinite. In it's destructive form it uses worship as a means of attempting to control God and is therefore identified with idol worship. In it's rectified form the energy of Tohu is contained by the vessels of Torah and is therefore identified with the Torah scholar. In fighting the malach of Eisav, Yaakov can see the duality of the Olam HaTohu.
"Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled (vayei'avek) with him until the break of dawn. When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the socket of his hip; so Yaakov's hip-socket was dislocated as he wrestled with him." (Bereishis 32:25-26)
Rav Yehoshua ben Levi says: This teaches that they raised the dust (avak) of their feet up to the heavenly Throne. It says here: "Behei'avko imo," as he wrestled with him, and it says there: "Va'anan avak raglav," clouds are the dust of his feet. The words wrestled and dust share the shoresh of "AVK." The Baal Turim adds that gematria of "vayei'avek" (wrestled) equals that of "kisei hakavod,"throne of glory.
This is not a simple fight. The dust of the world, the physical reality, is ascending to the kisei hakavod. Yaakov spends the night, a reference to the darkness of the physical world, maintaining that it is he and not Eisav that will bring the world to its ultimate rectification by rectifying the sparks of Olam HaTohu.
"...until the break of dawn" (Bereishis 32:25)
This is a reference to the times of Mashiach when the truth of the oneness of God will become apparent to the entire world. With the breaking of the dawn, Yaakov theorizes that perhaps he has brought the world to its ultimate rectification and therefore he asks the malach of Eisav for his name. The Shelah explains that the name of Eisav's malach is Samael. In the times of Mashiach the Malach of Eisav will be killed by having the shem Hashem removed from his name. The only reason the Malach of Eisav can survive is because of the Godliness that sustains him. Yaakov is inquiring of Samael if he has successfully mined the Godly spark within him. If he has indeed managed to take the essence of the Olam HaTohu and bring it into the keilim of Tikkun that would mean that the fight is over.
"When he saw that he could not prevail against him, he touched the socket of his hip, and the socket of Jacob's hip became dislocated as he wrestled with him." (Bereishis 32:26)
The Ramban explains that hitting Yaakov in the gid hanasheh (the hip socket) is an expression of the idea that this fight will continue on throughout the generations. Yaakov has done all he can do but it is not enough. For the Olam HaTohu to truly transform it needs to be a slow process. Indeed it will require all of human history.
Both Yaakov and Yisrael
"No longer shall your name be called Yaakov, rather, Yisrael shall be your name. For you strove with the divine and with men and you have prevailed." (Bereishis 32:29)
Yaakov refuses to relinquish his hold on the Malach of Eisav. Knowing that this fight will continue throughout Klal Yisrael's history he demands a blessing. It would take a Yaakov Avinu, a man who sees his mission to liberate the energy of the Olam HaTohu to demand a beracha from the Malach of Eisav. Who else but Yaakov could see a spark of divinity in a Malach of impurity.
Whereas Avraham is no longer called Avram, Yaakov is called both Yisrael and Yaakov.
Yaakov is so named because he grasps at the heel of Eisav. He spends his life dealing with the lowest aspects of the physical world. Yisrael strove with both "the divine and with men." He does not remain a dweller in tents, immersed in the divine, but in taking on Eisav's soul his quest is both divine and human. He can no longer be content living a sublime life, he must redeem the spiritual from the physical. Though Yaakov defeats the Malach of Eisav he cannot be named for the victory because the war is not yet over. As Yisrael we will continue to do battle until the victory is complete.
Not Yet Intimate
With all this in mind we can now return to our original questions. When Yaakov and Eisav do finally meet one another they embrace and kiss. Everyone agrees that the embrace is authentic but the kiss is subject to a debate. Embrace represents closeness but a kiss represents intimacy and oneness. Yaakov had already achieved closeness with Eisav. In his own person he held both souls. But those souls have not yet merged to become one. To say that Eisav and Yaakov kissed authentically is untenable. It must have been an attempt on Yaakov's life as some commentators explain. Yet, Rav Shimon bar Yochai says it was indeed authentic. It is a halacha that Eisav hates Yaakov. To say something is a halacha is to say this is the way of the world. Halacha reflects the reality and the reality is that tikkun cannot yet contain Tohu. But one day it will. The Rambam says we all have two wills. An external will and an internal will. On an external level Eisav hates Yaakov. On an internal level the Olam HaTohu is waiting to be understood by the Olam HaTikkun. Its most inner desire is to give Yaakov a kiss. To become one with the Olam HaTikkun. This is what will happen in the days of Mashiach. Rav Shimon bar Yochai saw the kiss of Yaakov and Eisav as it truly was. Not just as external chaos but the internal desire for harmony. Not merely in the context of this saga but through the lens of Mashiach.
Masculine and Feminine Redemption
This explains another puzzling aspect of our story. "Eisav took his wives and his sons… and went to another land." (Bereishis 36:6) "Yaakov arose and he lifted his sons and his wives onto the camels." (Bereishis 31:17) Rashi (31:17) points out that Yaakov places the males before the females whereas Eisav places the females before the males. Why is this significant?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe zy"a points out that Rashi doesn’t say wives and sons but rather male and female. In the family hierarchy the wife certainly goes before the son. This is a specific spiritual gender dynamic. Male represents the logical and ordered mind (vessels of Olam HaTikkun) whereas female represents the faith, feeling and conviction (the infinite energy of Olam HaTohu). In the olam hatikkun our emotions are contained by the logic of the mind and are therefore appropriate whereas in the Olam HaTohu the female emotions run wild without any vessels to contain them. In a rectified world, where the tikkun and tohu work in tandem, there is no fear of the subjectivity of the emotion running wild and the emotion will only be an asset. We will experience the full range of our emotions without any boundaries and yet it will not be destructive. Yaakov, as he is coming to confront Eisav, represents the Olam HaTikkun and thus comes with a male first posture. But at the end of Yaakov and Eisav's confrontation, as Rav Shimon Bar Yochai noted we are already projecting forward to the rectified world of Olam Haba and therefore it is appropriate to list the female first.
The Time of Redemption Has Not Yet Come
It is now clear to us why Yaakov declines to join Eisav on his journey. Both Lavan and the Malach of Eisav make it clear to Yaakov that the divine light of Mashiach should not overwhelm the Olam HaTohu but instead the process of transformation needs to play itself out over the course of history. As Yaakov explains to Eisav, even the “tender children” and the “young flocks and cattle” (Bereishis 33:13-14) need to undergo a redemptive process. Though a truce has been called peace has not been made. That can only happen when the chaos of Tohu is contained by the vessels of Tikkun. As the Medrash said, Yaakov will only meet Eisav on Har Seir in the days of Mashiach. Until then the battle must continue.
This theme is ultimately found in Yetzias Mitzrayim as well. The Gemara (Berachos 9a,b) tells us that when Klal Yisrael was commanded to “request of the Egyptians vessels of silver and vessels of gold” prior to leaving Egypt they protested “we only want to leave.” This can be compared to a prisoner who is told you will be freed tomorrow and given a lot of money. The prisoner would rather forego the money and leave today. Nevertheless God insisted that they “salvage Egypt” leaving Egypt “a silo emptied of its grain, a pond emptied of its fish,” saying to Moshe “Tell them to request it of the Egyptians."
Like Rachel Imeinu, Klal Yisrael just want to leave and end the golus but Hashem tells them that to leave without the vessels defeats the very purpose of exile to begin with. The inner nature of Mitzrayim needs to be revealed… it needs to be emptied of its sustenance as a silo emptied of its grain and a pond emptied of its fish. What’s more is that they need to request it of Mitzrayim. The physical cannot be overwhelmed by the spiritual, it must give up its outer nature and reveal that a change has taken place. Only when Mitzrayim willingly hands over its sparks, when the Olam HaTohu is at peace in the Olam HaTikkun, can Klal Yisrael leave Mitzrayim and journey back to Eretz Yisrael.