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                       PARSHAT VAYISHLACH

One of our first prayers that comes to mind each morning reminds us that fear and awe of Hashem is at the very foundation of human intelligence. "Raishit Chachma Yirat Hashem." The beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem. Without this basic component, all other qualities are of little value and one remains a boor.

When Yaakov learned that his brother Eisav was coming after him with four hundred men, "Yaakov became very distressed and it frightened him..." (Bereshit 32:8). Rashi and other commentaries explain that Yaakov feared that he might be killed, but was extremely distressed that he might have to kill others in self defense. Wouldn't Yaakov be justified in killing under those circumstances? Why worry? He worried about what killing would do to his relationship with Hashem. This is much different than the boor who worries about punishment but not about the consequences of the negative act. A righteous person is more concerned about the damage and the hurt his actions may cause than the punishment that may result.

What is a boor?  Pirkei Avot, 2:6 teaches that a boor does not fear to sin. Our sages explain that there is a great difference between fear of sin and fear of punishment. Nearly everyone is worried about getting caught and punished for a bad deed...even the boor. Fear of sin, however, is entirely different.

How did Yaakov deal with his aggressive brother? First, he divided his camp in two as a defensive move, then he prayed to Hashem for protection. Finally, he prepared gifts of tribute for his brother (Bereshit 32:8-16).

Yaakov's responses were appropriate. He was correct in taking a defensive posture, for a boor does not fear doing harm to others. Indeed, a boor does not know right from wrong. Yaakov was also right in praying to Hashem for protection, because a boor is not likely to change without divine intervention. When Yaakov offered gifts to his brother, it was to calm his anger and show him that proper behavior will be rewarded. Swift and certain reward and punishment can be an effective way to modify a boor's behavior.

Yaakov's three step plan would set the tone for his descendants throughout history. When faced with an overwhelming enemy with boorish behavior: defend yourself, pray to Hashem and offer gifts with the hope that, perhaps, one day the boor shall do Teshuvah (return to Hashem) and become a different person.

Kol Tov!  Our best to's all good. Shabbat Shalom, CM



When they finally met after many years, Eisav was puzzled by Yaakov's material wealth. Why would Eisav be surprised that Hashem blessed his spiritual brother Yaakov in this world?


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