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Parshat Vayetze

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Parshat vayetze opens and closes with the appearance of angels. The opening brings us Yakov’s dream when running away in desperation from his brother Esau’s anger. In this beautiful dream, where Hashem promises to take care of him, we can almost visualize the angels climbing up and down and this fits in with the idea that our dreams are our imagination running in overdrive or a virtual recounting of our fears or hopes.

Yakov is on his own with not knowing what might happen after he had tricked his father and brother but interestingly when he awakens he is filled with hope and optimism and only asks for basic needs ” bread to eat and clothes to wear.” Much as we see Hashem promising to watch over him I think we see Yakov coming of age and realising his future is up to him and this is what happens. Yakov from here on has to battle for twenty years in his uncle Lavan’s house for his wife, family and to make a fair living.

At the end of our parsha we have a different Yakov having proved himself capable, not anymore “the simple man living in his tent” but nevertheless still having to face the frightening challenge of a powerful brother wanting to kill him. In a fascinating deja vu we meet angels again but in contrast not in a dream. Rashi, who told us that when Yakov was running away that these were the angels of the holy land and outside of Israel changing over, explains here that this is just another angel swap back, but the Ramban rejects this as the locations do not tally. He proposes that these are Hashem’s good soldiers whom he has sent to give Yakov confidence that he will protect him from Esau. Yakov in recognition names the place”machanayim”- a double camp.

The Meshed Chochma notes the use of the word “vayifga” in both incidents as an expression of suddenness and surprise but differently. In his first escape Hashem magically transports Yakov to a holy site. On his return, twenty years later, it is the angels who magically and suddenly appear in front of Yakov. Perhaps what we are seeing here is a really mature Yakov who is saying thank you Hashem for sending me these Angels but I have to do this on my own, so he divides into two camps, his own who he must protect and the angels who are a useful addition. This would fit in nicely with the beginning of next week’s parsha where Yakov sends angels as messengers to Esau to test out the waters. Not only that, Hashem provides him later with his greatest challenge where he has to battle with an angel. Yakov’s life from his leaving home is a continuous struggle and he more than Abraham and Yitzchak has to learn to stand on his own two feet.

Who are we to understand the true significance of the Angels but it is lovely to note that we use the closing words of the parsha are part of ” tefilat haderech” the travellers prayer, something which we are very aware of currently travelling through South America. my father had a brother who ended up here in the 1920’s and we gave met some of our cousins for the first time and some speak good English. despite what we read life for them is good and one even works in a local start up. I have not seen any angels here in Buenos Aires but some parts of Buenos Aires do feel like Golders Green. The nearest we got was last night to a tango show at the cafe of the angels.