Our Efforts and God's Help by Rabbi Yosef Adler


            As Yaakov is about to die he summons Yosef to arrange for burial in ארץ כנען. Yosef then takes his two sons מנשה and אפרים to Yaakov. Yaakov blesses them and, in effect, elevates them to the status of שבטים - אפרים ומנשה כראובן ושמעון יהיו לי. At the conclusion of this unit the Torah states ואני נתתי לך שכם אחד על אחיך אשר לקחתי מיד האמורי בחרבי ובקשתי (מח:כב). Yaakov tells Yosef I have given you "שכם אחד" above and beyond your brothers. Two interpretations are offered by Rashi to explain what Yaakov gave Yosef. שכם can be a reference to the נחלה, in which case Yaakov simply reiterates the fact that Yosef will now be considered two שבטים (אפרים and מנשה) whereas, heretofore, he was counted only as one שבט. Or, as רש"י suggests שכם ממש- that Yaakov awards Yosef the actual city of שכם. Indeed Yosef's bones were later brought to ארץ כנען and buried in שכם. What follows, though, at the conclusion of the pasuk is Yaakov's explanation as to how he acquired שכם:  אשר לקחתי מיד האמורי בחרבי ובקשתי, "which I seized from אמורי with my sword and bow."  רש"י initially offers the literal interpretation of חרבי וקשתי.  When שמעון and לוי killed the residents of שכם after the דינה episode, all the surrounding residents came to their defense.  Yaakov had to don military gear in order to protect himself and hence he captured שכם and its surrounding with dagger and bow.  תרגום אונקלוס, however, offers a most unusual interpretation of בחרבי ובקשתי.  He translates בצלותי ובעותי, meaning with my supplication and prayer did I take hold of שכם. I suggest that אונקלוס and רש"י are merely two sides of the same coin. When the enemy attacks the highest priority is to defend oneself. One takes all the necessary precautions to physically defend oneself. One does not simply claim that הקב"ה will defend and protect me. However, once all battle plans have been formulated, one turns to הקב"ה to seek His assistance.  As one engages in battle, one should never believe that "כחי ועצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה," that my military might and expertise assured victory.  One attributes victory to הקב"ה who aids and assists our endeavors.  In reality, יעקב exhibited this dual level of preparedness in his encounter with עשו.  חז"ל state "התקין עצמו בשלשה דברים לדורון, לתפלה, ולמלחמה," that Yaakov initially hoped for a peaceful solution with עשו but then was prepared for battle and offered תפילות as well (see Rashi בראשית לב:ט).  We also note the dual efforts in Moshe's encounters with עמלק.  He orders יהושע to handle the military initiative and then Moshe raises his hands to הקב"ה in prayer to invoke רחמי שמיא, compassion from heaven (שמות יז:ט-יא).  Today as well, as we constantly focus our attention and concern on מדינת ישראל, we expect the Israeli army, צה"ל, to be in a state of readiness to meet every challenge, בחרבם ובקשתם, with the most sophisticated weaponry presently available, but at the same time we seek divine protection as we recite the מי שברך for צה"ל every Shabbat morning and state "כי ה" אלוקיכם ההלך עמכם להלחם לכם עם אויביכם להושיע אתכם."

Food for Thought by Ezra Frazer

Pidyon Shevuyim by Yehudah Kranzler