Community Rabbi Corner, Dec. 4, 2020

Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky 
Chai Center Chabad
Short Hills, NJ
Parashat Vayishlach

This week’s Torah portion is Vayishlach, and it tells the story of our patriarch Yaakov (Jacob) meeting his twin brother Esav after not seeing him for 36 years. At that time, they had separated in bad blood, since Esav had then threatened to kill his brother Yaakov over their father’s blessings. In fact, he had sent his son Eliphaz to do the deed, but Eliphaz had a change of heart at the last minute, and instead of killing Yaakov, he robbed him of all his possessions. 
Yaakov now hears that Esav is coming to see him, and he is very frightened. The parsha opens as Yaakov prepares to meet his brother by doing three things. He prepares for possible battle, he prepares a large bribe of many animals and slaves, and he prays to G-d for salvation and protection. 
But first, Yaakov sends messengers to Esav to find out firsthand whether Esav still wishes to harm him. Rashi tells us that these messengers are in fact angels, as we had previously read that angels accompanied Yaakov wherever he went.   
As Jews, we are called B’nei Yisrael, the children of Israel, the name given to Yaakov by G-d as a sign that he was the rightful heir to his father’s blessings.   
We too have G-d’s angels that guard us and protect us. This is stated clearly in Tehillim (Psalms) chapter 91, where we read, “Ki Malachav yetzaveh lach lishmarcha b’chol derachecha,” for G-d will command his angels to guard you wherever you go.   
Yes, Yaakov was frightened, and yes, he did suffer for many years. But because of Yaakov’s preparation and prayers, when he did finally meet Esav, the meeting was cordial and without incident. The lesson for us today in these difficult times, is that although we have enemies that seek to harm us, our prayers do matter, and our mitzvot do give us access to G-d’s protection. 
May we all blessed with the best of health, peace of mind, and true freedom to pursue G-d’s mitzvot in justice and righteousness.