Parashat Vayishlach (And he sent) Genesis 32:4-36:43
Haftarah: Obadiah 1-21
This is the third and final Shabbat that the Torah portion has dealt with Jacob and Esau. Although these two men came from the same family they were vastly different in regard to their commitment to the G-d of Israel. Even though from the womb these two men struggled against each other, their reunion was peaceful. After having met we read,
“And Esau returned on that day to his way toward Seir and Jacob traveled towards Sukkot and he built for himself a house and for his cattle he made booths (the word for booths is Sukkot), therefore he called the name of the place Sukkot ” Genesis 33:16-17
From this verse one can see these two men travel in different directions. Mount Seir was Esau’s inheritance and one learns in Ezekiel chapter 35 that HaShem will judge harshly this place and according to Malachi 1: 3 his inheritance will be made desolate and given to the jackals.
It seems rather odd that the name of the place that Jacob built would be called after the structures that he made for his cattle. Some have said that Jacob’s tending to the needs of animals underscores his recognition that man was given dominion over the animals. In other words, Jacob emphasizing the shelters he built for the cattle demonstrates his obedience to G-d’s word, which placed the care of animals under the responsibility of man (See Genesis 1:26).
There is usually not a great emphasis placed on this commandment. The fact that Jacob took this commandment to heart shows that he, and not Esau, was committed to HaShem. This commitment to G-d is also shown by the fact that immediately after finishing the building of these shelters for the cattle, he went and bought a piece of land so that he could build an altar for the G-d of Israel (See Genesis 33:20). Hence Jacob’s purpose for returning to the Land of Israel was not simply because he himself decided to make this land his home, but he came to Israel in order to keep the commandments of G-d, even the ones that are commonly overlooked and proclaim the name of the One True G-d, the G-d of Israel.
There is an additional message connected to this passage. The word “Sukkot” is also the same word which is used for the Feast of Tabernacles (booths). The primary teaching of this holiday is to trust and depend upon G-d for all things. Jacob’s life demonstrated this principle and the fact that he called the first place that he came to in the Land of Israel by the name Sukkot, testifies that he not only proclaimed the name of HaShem, but he also revealed the absolute need of every human being to trust in Him.
This is our calling as well. We have being given, through the message of the Gospel, an incumbent responsibility to teach others to depend upon HaShem’s provision of His only begotten Son—Messiah Yeshua for life. May we be like Jacob and make this proclamation the chief priority of our life.
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