Friday, December 4, 2009

Parshas Vayishlach

יעבר נא אדני לפני עבדו ואני אתנהלה לאטי ... עד אשר אבא אל אדני שעירה (33:14)

The Ponovezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, was once collecting money in New York on behalf of his yeshiva in B'nei B'rak. He was riding the subway, on his way to meet with a potential donor, when a group of unruly teenagers decided to have fun with the elderly Rabbi. They came over and began pestering and disturbing him. He was afraid that they might follow him to his destination or even attack him, but how could he escape them in an unfamiliar city?

Fortunately, the Ponovezher Rav remembered that the Medrash relates (Bereishis Rabbah 78:15) that in Talmudic times, whenever the Sages had to meet with the Roman government to lobby against its oppressive decrees, they would first review Parshas Vayishlach, which teaches the rules for interacting with Edom while we are in exile. Quickly reviewing the parsha, Rav Kahaneman developed a brilliant plan based on advice given by the Gemora (Avodah Zora 25b).

Feigning ignorance, he asked the unruly teens for directions to a certain part of town. Excited at their "good fortune," they were more than happy to offer to personally escort him there. They told him he should get off with them at the next stop. When the doors opened, the youths told the Rav to hurry up and exit. Rav Kahaneman, pretending to be even older than his years, took laborious steps and "honored" them with exiting first, which they were more than happy to do. A few seconds later, the Rav was still walking toward the doors when they closed and the subway took off – minus his tormentors!

The Ponovezher Rav explained that just when Yaakov thought he was finally free of his wicked brother, with his gifts accepted and Eisav's wrath placated, Eisav offered to accompany him on his journey. Yaakov, fearing the spiritual influence of his evil brother, commented that because of his large load and small children, he wouldn't be able to keep up with Eisav's pace. He therefore proposed that Eisav proceed ahead and he would eventually catch up, something that he never got around to doing ... and teaching his descendants an eternal and invaluable lesson.

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PS – any ideas for a food that has something to do with the parsha?

1 comment:

itsagift said...

That is really good. I like the way the Ponovezher Rav took this lesson from the parsha and did it too - who would think of that?! Amazing.

A nosh for the can get something small (like mini candies, mini m&ms) because Yaakov went back to get the little jugs - so we see that even the little things are really significant!
(We had a teacher in seminary who would do this with her kids - either bake or buy something connected to the parsha each week and then her husband would have to guess the connection. It's so nice to see people who make yiddishkeit so real to their families!)

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