Yaakov's Strategies for the Future by Zev Prince


            We have a concept of מעשי אבות סימן לבנים, that the experiences of our forefathers predict the events that will befall their children in the future. In this weeks Parsha we can see many actions taken upon by Yaakov that are predictive of events concerning בני ישראל.

            It states in Parshat VaYishlach, אם יבוא עשו אל המנחה האחת והזהו והיה המחנה הנשאר לפליטה, (לב:ט) meaning: "If Eisav will come to one camp and destroy it then the remaining camp will survive."  The Ramban comments on how Yaakov's plan would foreshadow the future of Bnei Yisrael.  He says: "Many countries will wish to destroy Bnei Yisrael, but they will survive because Jews in other countries will be treated kindly, insuring survival."

            Rashi, commenting on this Pasuk, says that Yaakov prepared himself for three things: presents, prayer, and war.  According to Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin Z"tl the reason he didn't begin with prayer was because he was too worried, ויירא יעקב מאוד, (לב:ח) meaning: "Yaakov was very afraid."  He was too worried to concentrate on prayer.  Therefore he began dividing his camp for war and in the mean time calmed down enough to pray.

            So too, before war the Kohen annointed for war would address the people with prayerful words of encouragement.  Yaakov may have preferred to have everyone ready for battle first, so he could encourage them in the same manner and so that they could all pray together.

            In 3391 when Hitler arose to power in Germany, the ראשי ישיבות of Europe asked the Chafetz Chaim what will be the fate of our brothers in Germany after Hitler proclaimed his goal to wipe out the name of Israel?

            The Chafetz Chaim replied that he will not succeed, and no one will be able to wipe out Bnei Yisrael in גלות.  He cited our Pasuk אם יבוא עשו אל המחנה האחת והנהו והיה המחנה הנשאר לפליטה.  The Rashei Yeshiva still were not fully satisfied and replied that the threat is still very near and if Hitler does succeed in wiping out part of Bnei Yisrael, what will be left, as the pasuk says המחנה הנשאר לפליטה?  The Chafetz Chaim replied that the answer can be found in the pasuk ובהר ציון תהיה פליטה והיה קודש (עובדיה א:יז), meaning: "But in Mount Zion, there shall be those that escape and it shall be holy."  The Rashei Yeshiva left the Chafetz Chaim relieved for they knew in their hearts that Bnei Yisrael would surely survive.

            Another lesson can be learnt from Yaakov.  The Beit Levi explains that Yaakov was afraid, Eisav will act as a brother towards him, pressuring him to become friends with Eisav, a Rasha. Then he proceeds to say הציליני נא מיד אחי מיד עשו (לב:יח), meaning: "Please save me from the hands of Eisav and from the hands of my brother."  He was afraid more from creating a friendship with a Rasha.  We find later on that Yaakov requested of Eisav to go ahead of him on the way to Seir (as not to interact).  From this we can learn for future generations, to avoid close relationships with Rashaim.

            Lastly a Jew is referred to as a Yisrael because Yaakov acquired the name Yisrael as a result of his encounter with the Malach

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