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Shabbat Parashat Toldot| 5764
Cooperation and Enmity among Brothers and NationsHarav Moshe Ehrenreich
The story of the relationship between Ya’akov and Eisav is to be understood on two planes: the relationship between two biological brothers and that between the nations of their descendants, Am Yisrael and Edom. From the perspective of, “the actions of the fathers are a sign for the sons,” we can search history and identify events and phenomena that are rooted in ancient events.
When Bnei Yisrael are liberated from exile, we find two stages. The first takes place with the assistance of the nations, as we see before the Second Temple, with Coresh of Persia encouraging the return to Zion. This was necessary because of the oaths administered to Bnei Yisrael that they would not rebel against the nations (Ketubot 111a). The second, main stage of liberation, for which we pray, cannot take place with the help of the nations, but, to the contrary, is connected to their enmity.
The liberation from Egypt serves as a model for the future redemption. At first, Paroh was asked to give permission for Bnei Yisrael to leave, and even to assist by providing animals for the sacrifices. However, after finally agreeing to free Bnei Yisrael, Paroh changed his mind and regretted sending them out. Only after Paroh decided to oppose the Exodus, does the Torah relate that Bnei Yisrael were leaving “b’yad rama” (an upraised arm) (Shemot 14:8). Only then were they able to experience the incredible miracles and spiritual revelations at Yam Suf.
This concept of two stages exists in reference to Ya’akov and Eisav as well. The Kuzari (II, IV), in discussing the fact that all prophecy takes place in or on behalf of Eretz Yisrael, says that the backdrop of the struggle between the brothers, Ya’akov and Eisav was over inheritance of Eretz Yisrael. At first, Ya’akov bought the bechora (birthright) in order to get the Land. Even as Ya’akov received the berachot of his father, before the outright enmity broke out, he did not yet receive the gift of Eretz Yisrael, but, primarily, agricultural plenty and dominance. Subsequently, the Torah tells us that “Eisav despised his brother and Eisav said in his heart… I will kill my brother, Ya’akov” (Bereishit 27:41). Now, at the second stage, when cooperation broke down, Ya’akov received the second installment of his beracha, which included receiving the Promised Land “which Hashem gave to Avraham” (Bereishit 28:4).
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