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Ch. 8: Parashat va’YISHLAḤ (Gen. 32:4 – 36:43) - Angels and Messengers

Yiẓḥaq Ḥayut-Man & Tirẓah Arzi 18.08.2010 05:38
Ch. 8: Parashat va’YISHLAḤ (Gen. 32:4 – 36:43) - Angels and Messengers - Bible study - Book of Genesis - Future Bible

The complex and highly meaningful relations of the twins Ya'aqov and Esav as explained mystically, through the anigmatic story of the ancient Kings of Edom

Re-GENESIS NOW Project, Chapter 8
Parashat va’Yishla
(Gen. 32:4 – 36:43)
Angels and Messengers


Ya’ạqov’s preparations and encounter with Ẹsav - and with himself

Declining the offers of Rapprochement with sav and with Shekhem

The Dismal Affair of Shim’n and Levi at Shekhem

The Possible Rectification for Shim'n and Levi in our times

The Transformations of Ẹsav-Edom

Regarding the Kings that Reigned in the Land of Edom

Transformations of the Ancient Kings and Implications for our time

Appendix ‘A” - The Tribe of Levi

Appendix ‘B’ - The Ancient Kings of Edom and the Crusades

Appendix ‘C’ – The World of Tohu and the World of Tiqun

Appendix ‘D’ – Ẹsav's Head


Ya’qov’s Preparations and encounter with sav - and with himself

And Ya’ạqov sent (literally,”would send”[1]) angels (/messangers - Mal’akhim) before him to sav his brother”. With these words start the great drama of the relationship of the mature Ya’ạqov/Jacob with his brother Ẹsav - a Parashah replete with angels (Mal’akhim), kings (Melakhim and relations of brothers (Aim). Ya’ạqov, who in the end of the last Prashah met a band of angels of God and saw “God’s Camp”, first sent a band of messenger-angels to his brother (and in the sequel we shall discuss the possibility that these were “real angels”), and later he fought and released to freedom an angel of the “powers of darkness” (“let me go, because the day breaks” 32:26, asks the angel). So, from this Parashah we can also learn a little about the nature of angels.

Why did Ya’ạqov make a contact with his brother? Why did he sent the messenger-angels? Twenty years (would) have passed since Ya’ạqov fled for the fear of his brother’s anger. It is clear that he was still afraid of Ẹsav and apparently full of guilt feelings. But, as we will learn later in the Parashah – nothing yet transpired I the land of Kena’an/Canaan, the conditions were not yet ready for the day of vengeance. “When the days of mourning for my father are at hand” (27:41) – for aftr which Ẹsav planned his revenge. Yitzḥaq his father still lived at Ḥevron. Ostensibley,  could have first entered the country without Ẹsav’s knowledge – for Ẹsav at that stage lived in the distant Land of Se’ịr – and when he would have arrived home, he could arrange for a reconciliation with the father’s help. But this course was closed, probably because the father had also been cheated by him, and  must have born guilt feelings towards him as well.

And  was left alone (levado). The word levado-alone was used once about Adam who had no mate, before there was Eve-avah (2:18), and it was mentioned three times in connection with Ya’ạqov. First he separated his flock from Laban's (30:40), and then later when he sent the droves of presents to his brother Ẹsav, he separated and sent each drove by itself (32:17). Now  was left alone and had to contend with Ẹsav by himself alone. The whole key Biblical drama of relations among brothers, since Qayin and Hevel, is about to be consummated at the time and place that  occasioned by sending the messenger-angels to Ẹsav.

It is only the re-integration of the separated children: Qayin + Hevel, Yishm’el + Yiẓḥaq, sav + , the integration of their unique attributes into a whole entity, allows a whole solution for the common dilemma of humankind, as it manifested in the generations of the patriarchs. Yitzḥaq, as he was about to bless hs child, notes that with the one facing him “The voice is ’s voice, and the hands are the hands of sav (27:22). Only this was the combination deserving of the blessing: that the voice of the learned , the “plain man, dwelling in tents” (25:27) will be united for action with the good hands of Ẹsav, the maker[2]. The figure of the blessed one, “Yisra’el-Israel”, should contain these two complementary sides.  gained the name “Yisra’el-Israel” only after he had “contended with God and with men” (32:29). This is the capacity that was added onto him, the ability of doing and of holding his own in contention.

Then, “and Ya’acov was left alone”. Now he had to contend by himself with his brother.

And  sent Mal’akhim (messengers/angels). The act of sending out messengers (or apostles) is quite common in the Bible, and appears in various ways in the Hebrew Bible over 800 times[3]. The sending of Mal’akhim (meaning both “messengers” and “angels”) is also quite common, but it is clear that in the majority of cases the reference is to human messengers, whereas here it is possibly about “real angels” (Mal’akhim mamash), as Rashi surmises. In any case, the angels are messengers who are sent to mediate between two parties who feel uneasy about coming in direct contact – be it physical or mental. The messengers are expected to faithfully fulfil whatever they were sent to convey, and so do also the angels. Yet the tone of their words may add the divine will to the human request.

And the messengers returned to , saying, We came to thy brother sav, and also he is coming to meet thee, and four hundred men with him”, certainly a regal reception.

It is possible that these “four hundred men” (Hebrew Ish), were none but “Ishim”, which are a kind of angels, just as at the end or the parashah, in the striving of  with the angel it is written “and there wrestled Ish (“a man”) with him (32:25), much as in Ezekiel’s prophecy “And he brought me there, and, behold, there was Ish, whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a thread of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood at the gate (40:3), it is clear that the Ish was an angel.

There are beautiful midrashim (exegesis) about fine meanings in the messages that Ya’ạqov sent to Ẹsav. But in the terms of the Qabbalah, the question immanent in the configuration of the angels of Ẹsav is: would Ya’ạqov be able to go beyond his four lower attributes (Netsa, Hod, Yesod and Malkhut[4]), namely to give up his natural soul, his primary, material and social, interests.

This is not the first time that the number 400 is mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Abraham was announced that his seed will be a stranger in a foreign country for 400 years, and eventually bought the Cave of Makhpelah for the estounding some of 400 telents of silver. 400 is apparently a significant number: it is made up of 4, which denotes stability (animals have 4 legs, a minimal building has 4 walls and classical chair has 4 legs, four square walls on the ground mark a cube), and these four (2X2) are multiplied by 10X10, ten being the most natural counting for us, as we have ten fingers.

Ẹsav came to meet Ya’ạqov his brother “and four hundred men with him”, and it is evident that with them he could make war on Ya’ạqov and destroy his camp without much difficulty. Ya’ạqov would have to overcome his fear of these “four hundred men” (or these lower qualities) in order to enter into the land of Israel, and through overcoming this fear he became transformed to “Yisra’el”.

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed (32:8). It becomes evident that this was not the outcome that Ya’ạqov expected. He could have been glad that the messanger-angels did their mission well and Ẹsav came to greet him in a regal reception (which is what eventually transpired), but Ya’ạqov was afraid of the reason that made Ẹsav come to him accompanied by four hundred men. For Ya’ạqov, this looked the realization of all his fears and worries. “Ya’ạqov was greatly afraid…”. Ẹsav made sure that he would have the force, for case of fight. Towards him came Ya’ạqov and his eleven sons, some of whom were still young children. In a case of violent confrontation, they clearly had no chance. So, Ya’ạqov was forced to decide about the necessary sacrifices.

And he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, in two bands”. Ya’ạqov performed two actions on that day, and still another one the next day: first, he divided the camp to two, in order to divide the risk. Just before, the meeting with the bands of angels led him to call the place Maanayim, namely “Two camps”, and now – like in a self-fulfilling prophecy – Ya’ạqov himself became Maanayim-twin camps, as he himself said in his prayer “with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I have become two bands(32:11). In this way, Ya’ạqov actually admitted to himself that Ẹsav was entitled to take half of his flocks and possessions, as the firstborn was entitled to take a double portion of the earthly legacy.

But Ya’ạqov would do still another act, seemingly a less practical one – he prayed: “Save me, I beseech you, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he will come and strike me, and the mother with the children (32:12). In those days prayers were apparently rare and it seems that there was a need for a prophet to enact them, as God explains to Avimelekh, after the affair of Sarah: "Now therefore restore the man's wife: for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee and thou shalt live" (Gen. 20:7). Moshe prayed for the health of Miriyam; annah – for the birth of a child, whereas Yiẓḥaq, when asking for seed from his barran wife, only beseeched (tar) and did not pray. After the stopping of the Temple sacrifices, prayer became the only form to address God. Here, as noted, Ya’ạqov has already sacrificed half of what he owned, but he worried that he might have to stand a tet like that of Abraham at the qedah (or that of Job). Ya’ạqov prayed not about his property, but about his very survival and especially the survival of his progeny after him.

In the morning Ya’ạqov added another action to his actions: he sent towards Ẹsav a very sophisticated set of gifts, in the best of his scheming. We may claim that in the sending of these gifts Ya’ạqov has built a kind of a ladder (or a bridge) towards his brother, who might still hate him, in order to reconcile him step by step. He sent five droves of ten types of domestic animals, with a space between each drove and drove, and with each drove – shepherds who repeated the same declaration of submission “They are your servant Jacob's; it is a present sent to my lord Esau; and, behold, also he is behind us (32:19). 550 animals altogether (in Gematria TQN תקן, having to  do with Tiqqun – rectification), enough for serving for rectification and a gift both for Ẹsav himself and for each one of the men with him, who would thus not have come and gone empty-handed, even if they would not be called to spil blood.

So went the present before him; and he himself lodged that night in the camp”. He has already sent the messengers, whereas he remained in the camp to prepare for the perhaps-fighting that was nearing. Still at night Ya’ạqov rose, in order to accomplish the last stage in his sophisticated scheme: to care for those closest to him.

And he rose that night, and took his two wives, and his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Yabboq (32:23). The name “Yabboq” (יבק) is found in the letters of the name “Ya’ạqov” (יעקב). There is in it a prior hint that, in a certain sense, the passage would take place within Ya’ạqov himself, and inside his name and from it. (It is noteworthy that there are mentioned the eleven sons, but not the daughter Dinah, that from the association of evens she must have already been among them. There is a forsaking of Dinah from consciousness, which then leads to the story of her forsaking in Shekhem).

And Ya’ạqov was left alone, and there wrestled a man (Ish) with him until the breaking of the day (32:25). Ya’ạqov prayed and asked for divine answer, but then the divine answer he received was very unusual: that “Ish” – who was evidently another angel, carried with him the blessing, the crowning of Ya’ạqov with the title of “Israel/ Yisra’el”; and the reason for it: “Your name shall be called no more Ya’ạqov (namely, “would cheat”), but Yisra’el: for thou hast contended – sari(ta) – with God and with men, and hast prevailed (32:29). That is, not angels of peace  - hashlamah - would help him now but an angel of escalation - haslamah (literally “laddering”), and angel of confrontation.

The Jewish sages identified this “Ish” as a very specific angel – “the angel of Ẹsav” (Rashi on 32:25, quoting the sages) – namely the representative of Ẹsav and his protector in heaven. This attribution is well supported by Ya’ạqov’s own words about Ẹsav: since after that nocturnal encounter Ya’ạqov said: “for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved (32:31), whereas when he later met Ẹsav face to face, he told him “for truly I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of an angel (or “of God”), and thou wast pleased with me (33:11). The face of the miraculous Ish, thus, was the face of Ẹsav – but Ya’ạqov was not able to perceive it until he confronted Ẹsav face-to-face. Much as Ya’ạqov so the ladder made of rungs with angels-messengers going up and down and the ladder is crowned by a divine figure, so he made the procession of gifts, rung after rungs with messengers in each, till it reaches the divine agent of his brother, the sign for the divinity extant even within the soul of his fearsome brother.

Anyway, Ya’ạqov, who up till then adopted crooked ways in his relations with Ẹsav, was called for a confrontation. Not to relay on miracles or schemes, but to encounter by himself. “And Ya’ạqov was left alone”, he could rely only upon himself and not on his wealth or on his family or arrangements with others. Only then he would be ready for the encounter with Ẹsav.

So with whom did Ya’ạqov wrestle at the ford of Yaboq? With “The Angel of Ẹsav”? With his own fears? With his own unconscious? With his existence as “thou worm Ya’ạqov (Isaiah 41:14)? In the course of the encounter, there occures a metamorphosis and the worm becomes “Yisra’el”, who overcomes the miraculous winged beings. Ya’ạqov was injured in his limb, but he continued wrestling “until the breaking of day”. When the light of day broke, the miraculous contender lost his ability to wrestle and he pleads, “Let me go, for the day breaks”. That miraculous being belongs to the world of the night entities, the fears, the dreams and the other subconscious contents that support Freud and his pupils. To a large extent, “The angel of Ẹsav” is also Ya’ạqov’s guilt feelings towards his brother and his ownshadow side, that is projected (as is well known) on the others one come into contact with.

Thy name shall be called no more Ya’ạqov, but Yisra’el (32:29). Ya’ạqov is the man of the qev – the heel, the lowest spot of the body, which connects the weight of the body with the ground. And also the qov person, of crooked ways and of deceit. When he stands on his feet and fights his fears all night long, he would merit that the dawn will also break, and the frightful figure that attacked him in the dark would bring him the blessing of the liberation from his fears: “I will not let thee go, unless thou bless me”. The potential entailed by this encounter was of a complete transformation in Ya’ạqov’s behavior, becoming a new man who merits a new name.

The name ‘Yisra’el[5] was “the messianic name” of Ya’ạqov. The earthly man remained ‘Ya’ạqov’, for that is how the account of Genesis keeps calling him also in his subsequent adventures. He hardly managed to become ‘Yisra’el’ during his lifetime. But through his connecting with himself as the universal human soul, with the ‘Yeidah’ (literally, ‘singularity’ – the highest and transpersonal level of the soul in which telephathy and instant intuition of the other) in his soul, he then appeared as ‘Yisra’el’, as a messanger of the Will of the High God, and therefore in a messianic role of human redemption.

Only when Ya’ạqov became ‘Yisra’el’, he also effectively became ‘suy’ – completed – and through the very embodiment of this ‘completed-suy” part within him, he meritd the fulfilment of the blessing that Yiẓḥaq prepared for Ẹsav. The embodiment of the title of ‘Yisra’el’, the one who contends with God and men, might have been accomplished either by Ẹsav or by Ya’ạqov. While Ya’ạqov did win it - when he endured throughout the contention - he never attained a fixed status in that realm.

For Ya’ạqov was also tied up with his sons, who were still far from being suitable for the task. Soon after his parting with Ẹsav, Ya’ạqov-Yisra’el camped by the city of Shekhem, when the action was taken out of his hands and given to the hand of his sons, and they, in their turn, also adopted crooked ways, and some of them chose still worse things.

The Biblical narrative observes well, as noted, the different qualities of Ya’ạqov, and keeps calling him “Ya’ạqov” even after the fording of the River Yabboq. For comparison – recall that from the moment that the name of "Abram" was chaged to "Abraham", the text never uses the older name, not once. Whereas Ya’ạqov in only a handful of case would subsequently be called ‘Yisra’el’ (of which only one instance in this Parashah) even though the name "Yisrael" is granted to him twice – once from that "Ish" and once from God Himself: after the affair at Shekhem and after the purification of his camp, Ya’ạqov merited to receive another revelation, and again, he was told, this time by God: “Thy name shall be called no more Ya’ạqov, but Yisra’el”, which is immediately followed by “And Ya’ạqov called the name of the place Peni’el (32:31). Only after Binyamin was born and Rachel was buried, is his proper name mentioned: “And Yisra’el journeyed, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of der(35:21). It required reaching the full stature of the Twelve Sons, and perhaps even to lose Rael, in order to be regularly called “Yisra’el”.


Declining the offers of Rapprochement with Ẹsav and with Shekhem

Ẹsav offered Ya’ạqov to come with him to the land of Se’r. In fact, Ẹsav offered to join with Ya’ạqov into one people. Soon afterwards there come a similar and open proposal from amor, the father of Shekhem: “and make marriages with us: give your daughters to us, and take our daghters to you. And you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade it, and get property in it (34:9-10).

Ya’ạqov could have joined with Ẹsav, but he avoided this with excuses: “My lord knows that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds giving suck are a care for me; and if they should overdrive them one day, all the flocks would die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant; and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that goes before me and the chilren, until I come to my lord to Se’r(33:13-14). Ya’ạqov – who promised Asav after their reconciliation to come to Se’r – was not much more straight with him than the Ya’ạqov who stole from him the firstborn rights over twenty years before. For immediately after Ẹsav left him and returned to Se’r, Ya’ạqov journeyed to Sukkot and build himself there a permanent house. The promise to come to Se’r was left as a promisary note that has not yet been redeemed.[6]  

Ya’ạqov’s refusal testifies to his lack self-confidence, and this is evident in that the Biblical narrative returns to call him on these occasions “Ya’ạqov” and not “Yisra’el”. If he would have conducted himself as “Yisra’el”, he could have joint with Ẹsav and/or the people of Shekhem and absorb them into “Yisra’el”. But he remained full of worries, remained “Ya’ạqov”, whereas the name “Yisrael” (which is a future form) remains for the future (and Ya’ạqov’s failure to build the future Israel-Yisra’el as a covenant between his sons and the sons of Ẹsav causes problems right to this very day).

The problem of the settlement in the land must have been quite severe, as we learn soon from the fear that Ya’ạqov had after the affair of Dinah, fears of the revenge of the native people, who had hundreds of times more power than he had – “And Ya’qov said to shimn and Levi, You have brought trouble on me to make me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Kena’ni and the Perizzi; and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed (34:30). The practical Ẹsav found a solution to this by his moving to the land of Edom, a geographically and agriculturally difficult region, but where it was easier to achieve sovereignty (as we may see in the sequel in the generations of the chiefs and “the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Yisra’el”). Ẹsav thus draws his power from outside the Land of Israel: first from Edom, then the power that Jewish tradition still attributes to sav – first from Rome and then from the Western-Christian world. The power that Ya’ạqov-Yisra’el sought originates in the Land of Kena’n, which he wants to inherit and transform into the Land of Israel (for which purpose he would still need the exile in Egypt, as already foretold by the Lord to Abraham, in the covenant “ben haBetarim”)

We have already shown above (Parashat Toldot) that historically, the union between the children of Ẹsav and the children of Ya’ạqov actually did happen, with the pushing of the Edomites west of the Dead Sea (by the Nabatian Arabs) and with their forced conversion to Judaism by the ashmonite kings.

Had the Jews who returned to ion from Babylon been wise enough to found again “Israel/Yisra’el rather than Judea/Yehudah, perhaps they might have eventually been able to regard the Edomites that joined them as an additional tribe for the completing of the Jewish identity through an Israelite tribal covenant. But the reception of converts was not done wholeheartedly, and they were not considered as a true part of the nation (see the case of King Herod the son of Edomite, who was still regarded as a stranger).

It is possible to compare the struggle between Ya’ạqov and Ẹsav also to the current struggle over the land between the Jewish “Children of Israel” and the Arab “Children of Yishma’el”. There is some guilt feeling of the Israelis concerning the deportation of the Palestinians, but this guilt is repressed to our collective sub-conscious. We still have not confronted “the Angel of Yishma’el”, neither openly nor in private, and therefore – in truth – we are not yet at the status of “Yisra’el”.


The Dismal Affair of Shim’ọn and Levi at Shekhem

One fact that is almost always omitted in discussion about the children of Ya’ạqov – as well as about the Tribes of Israel – is that the case is not of twelve, but of thirteen. Ya’ạqov had twelve sons and one daughter. The daughter, Dinah, was not included in the tribal division; Yoseph-Joseph, in comparison, was doubly represented through his two sons.

Also, many generations later, when there arose the case of the daughters of elofad (Numbers 27:1-11), the rules about inheritance of women were so obscure that even Moshe-Moses did not know them. Anyway, we have already shown above from the text, that Dinah could have brought in a huge estate - the whole estate of amor the father of Shekhem, for her family – but the feelings of revenge for the family honor, not only rejected such a possibility off-hand, but have demolished the sensitive balance that Ya’ạqov has built with such great effort.

We can see how the atmosphere has changed in Lavan’s house in one generation. The matriarchal house in which Rivqah grew (where the servant who asked about her father’s house was led into “her mother’s house”, and Rivqah herself was asked whether she would go with him) becomes patriarchal (“These daughters are my dahghters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle”, (31:43), so much so that in the generation of the children of Ya’ạqov the daughter is used merely as an instrument. We learn nothing about dinah’s own feelings towards Shekhem son of amor, or alternatively, what happened to her after the killing of the people of Shekhem. In the lists of those who went down to Egypt, she is no longer mentioned.

And when Shekhem the son of amor, the ivvite, prince of the country saw her (34:2). The sons of amor were already mentioned in the former chapter. Ya’ạqov bought כrom them the piece of land on which he had spread his tent for a hundred pieces of silver. We have seen in Parashat aye Sara that the native people of the land preferred not to sell pieces of land, but to absorb into themselves (at that case to absorb Abraham and his grave).

the son of amor, the ivvite, prince of the country” - The family of Yitzaq had already married with the ivvites. Aholivama, daughter of na, daughter of iv’on the ivvite (36:2), was one of the three wives of Ẹsav. Now there arose the question of a possible family connection between the children of Yisra’el and the ivvites, who were represented by the son of their prince.

And (he) lay with her, and defiled her. And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Ya’ạqov, and he loved the girl, and spoke kindly to the girl”. The story of Dinah may be compared to the story of Amnon, the son of King David (II Samuel, ch. 13). We have no doubt about the feelings of Amnon, who was first overcome by immense passion and later became full of hatred, and of Tamar, who was hurt twice and screamed. Had the Bible wanted to tell the story of Dinah from the perspective of Shim’n and Levi, it would have used the same terminology. The Torah did not say anything and did not mention suffering on behalf of Dinah. Yet it is clear that the behavior of Shekhem was much more positive than that of Amnon, the son of King David. After Shekhem lay with Dinah and defiled her – his soul was drawn to her and he loved her. Not only did he not cast her away as Amnon did, he implored her family to marry her: “Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give thee according as you shall say to me, but give me the girl for a wife (34:12).

In fact, there is a certain similarity between Ya’ạqov who met Rael, and Shekhem who meets Dinah. There certainly is much difference between he who buys his desire legally, and for the price of his best year, and between he who takes her by force. Yet the primary and similar things are the desire and the falling in love. After the dreadful deed, the rape, Shekhem takes heed, and he too was ready to pay any price that would be put upon him for the sake of his love.

In this will we consent to you: If you will be as we are, that every male of you be circumcised… and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people (34:15-16). The sons of Ya’ạqov could have brought to the complete conversion of a whole city-state, that would have joint willingly, but they preferred their vengeance.

Even more than Jerusalem, Shekhem (currently Nablus) is the navel of the land. This was the great opportunity of Yisra’el to fulfill the promise of “to thy seed will I give it” still in his time, and to bring a “Peace Now”; but the fanatics among his sons destroyed that chance, because they would not agree with what seemed to them as disgrace.

Over time, by the way, Shekhem would become included among the cities of the Levites, the tribe of Levi the destroyer of Shekhem (see below and in appendix ‘A’).

All the proper names in this Parashah are loaded with meanings:

Shekhem, the inheriting prince of the city at the navel of the Land of Kena’ạn, is “Ben amor” – literally “the Son of a Donkey”. This animal is used to signify the ignorant native people - m ha’Areand the material world – omer – but also the Messiah.[7] The Messiah cannot progress but on the back of the Donkey-Matter.

Shimeon – this name has to do with Hearing – Shmi’h: “Because the Lord has heard that I was hated, he has therefore given me this son also; and she called his name Shimen. (29:33) – is another variation on the name Yishm’el. They were both the sons of “the other wife” who hopes that the birth of the son will bring her her husband, and see in his birth a sign that God has answered her and heard her in her misery. Contrary to the hope of Le’ah, Ya’ạqov cursed Shimeọn – like also his brother and partner in the killing, Levi - “Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel”. (49:7). And indeed, in the course of the history of the land, the children of Shimen became assimilated in Judah. Later the Edomites moved to the region of Shimen and inherited it, and eventually they were also assimilated in Judah-Judea.

“Levi” has to do with “Leviyah" or "hitlavut", namely joining and accompanying. Levi did not have a separate tribal estate of its own, but received promotion as a tribe that accompanies the other tribes, and especially Judah, and engages in spiritual work.

So the course of history realized the curse of Ya’ạqov, yet also supplied the dramatic events that would be necessary for the rectification of Shimen and Levi, albeit in a range of time that goes beyond that of the scriptural records and reaches up to our times.

Ya’ạqov, who cursed his sons, complained about the damage they have brought to their father’s house and at his deathbed cursed them - did nothing to prevent this evil deed. He had at hand the possibility of realizing the blessings to Abraham right away: to join the royal house of Shekhem and to rule over the land. But he kept quite and allowed his sons to do as they pleased for “guarding the family honor”. This is the patriarchal-tribal behavior, known till the present in the Arab countries, as the main reason for murder. He did also nothing to rectify what has been perpetrated, just as he never fulfilled his promise to visit his brother. Once more, he preferred to flee.

But the Torah narrative, which is oriented, as we have shown, to future possibilities that reach to our own times, brought the story of Ya’ạqov, Shimeọn and Levi for the future moral lesson. When the time comes again to the establishment of the Covenant of Israel, then the recommendation of the Torah is not to act in the manner of Shimeọn and Levi in Shekhem, who were cursed because of their fanaticism, but on the contrary – to accept the native people of the land who may want to join with Israel.

The Possible Rectification for Shimeọn and Levi in our times

Shimeọn, we’ve shown, is connected semantically (Shem-name and Mashma’t-meaning) with Yishm’el, and in historical practice with Ẹsav and Edom. The absorption of the Edomites in Judea came after they inherited the land of Shimeọn (and it is interesting to note that the Ḥashmonean king who forced them to convert was Shimen Hurkanos). This may be a sign for the reappearance of the tribes in the future. The place of the “Tribe of Shimeọn” in the prospective multi-tribal Israel is left open and waits to be fulfilled, perhaps from among the peoples of Yishmạ’el who may want to join as a distinct tribe.

There is much ambiguity about the origin of the present Arabs of the Land of Israel/ Palestine. Some of them are certainly from the descendents of the Tribes of Israel and of Judah (as was shown, for example, by Israel’s 2nd president, Yiẓḥaq Ben-Ẓevi, in his books, and nowadays examined intensively by “the Engagement movement”). Others are descendents of the Arabs of the historic estates of “the Children of Yishmạ’el”. It is possible that there are among them descendents of the Kenaạnites and Philistines (though certainly much fewer than implied from the modern self-definition of “Palestinians”). In any case, there is here enough latitude for an Arab of this land (Israel and Palestine) who wants to identify himself with “Shimeọn”.

Appendix ‘A’ brings a passage from the (Hebrew) book “The Israeli People – the Lost Culture” of On Zayit, which among other things supports the possibility that the historical covenant of Israel did not come about through the destruction of the peoples of Kena’ạn-Canaan, but through their absorption in a covenant. The passage is about the Tribe of Levi, and shows that the Levites were those who accompanied (Livu) and joined Israel outside the territorial framework of the other tribes, without an agricultural estate but as urban settlements. Cities that were mentioned in the list of the cities not conquered by Joshua-Yehoshu’, return and appear also in the list of the cities of the Levites. The rectification (tiqqun) of Levi for the massacre he perpetrated upon the people of Shekhem who wanted to join with the Children of Israel was thus that of his very own “children” the inhabitants of Shekhem. “Levi”, who loses his estate because of the Dinah Affair, finds himself, after a certain fashion, as the inheritor of the estate of Dinah.

Due to their social status, the Levites were the tribe that connects the rest of the tribes, journeys among them and engages in the provision of services of keeping the traditions, education, instruction and healing (somewhat like the Brahmin class of India). In anticipating the erection of the Jerusalem Temple, which replaced to a large extent the Levite functions of the journeying and the carrying of the Tabernacle, King David appointed them to new functions, such as the music at the Temple. But the essential quality of the Levites is that they accompany - mitlavim - to the rest of the Israelite or Jewish nation. It is likely that towards the re-appearance of the multi-tribal Assembly of Israel (Knesset Yisra’el) there will appear - from among Jews and as well as gentiles – those who would accompany Judah in order to restore and nurture the whole pattern of Israel.

The Transformations of Ẹsav-Edom: From the Robbed to the Robber Brother and from Mount Se’ịr to the Representative of European Culture.

The Bible is throughout ambivalent as to the expectations from the older brother who sits in the East – Ẹsav or Se’r. There is an explicit command in the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy): (23:8) “You shall not loathe an Edomite; for he is your brother”. The expectations of Moses-Moshe from Edom, for example, are higher than from other nations: when the Children of Israel sought to pass through Edom on their way, they addressed the ruler of Edom differently than the other nations (BaMidbar/Numbers 20:14-21). Just like Ya’ạqov, who sent Mal’akhim (messengers/angels) to Ẹsav his brother, Moshe sends Mal’akhim to the King of Edom, and they recounted their brotherhood and common past. Also the King of Edom, like the other kings of the region, did not allow the Israelites to pass through his land, and like Ẹsav, he went forth to confront them with a large army. But Israel preferred not to fight Edom. When the prophets lament the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, they take issues with Edom. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Ovadiah and Mal’akhy, as well as the Psalms, complain about Edom’s not coming to help Judah like a brother.

Over the generations there mounted the revulsion of Ẹsav and the negation of his character. Already the prophet Ovadiah, in the haftarah (the Biblical reading in addition for the Parasha) for Parashat vaYishla (Ovadiah 1:2), as well as Jeremiah (49:15), calls Ẹsav-Edom “small and despised”. Jewish Biblical commentators of the Middle-Ages, who lived in exile in Christian countries, reviled Ẹsav, whom they regarded as the father and leader of the Christians (due to the historical turns that we have already discussed at Parashat Toldot).

It takes a fresh and unprejudiced eyes to look at the scriptures in order to realize that in the original Biblical narrative, the “small and despised” brother is not Ẹsav but Ya’ạqov: Ẹsav who met with Ya’ạqov behaved with magnanimity, and when the land could not support the flocks of them both (as happened in the case of Abraham and Lot) he chose to leave for Edom and to leave the land to his brother Ya’ạqov. Whereas Ya’ạqov, who bought the seniorty for a potage and took part in a swindle in order to gain his father’s blessing, continued moving in crooked ways and without integrity even after his reunion with Ẹsav - he promised to come with him and did not keep the promise. The relationship between them remained, however, correct for Ẹsav and Ya’ạqov buried their father together (35:29).

But since the times of the 2nd Temple and onwards - Edom lost its seniority and became the small and despise brother, and eventually - the cruel ruler Herod. We have noted above (Parashat Toldot) the way that Edom traversed from being a small kingdom east of the Land of Israel until becoming a synonym for Rome and for all the Christian kingdoms.

The world that we live in is, according to this perspective, to a large extent “the World of Ẹsav”, because it is led by “The West” that is the offpring of the Christian World and the Roman Empire. Thus it is seen that in a roundabout way it was the influences of the Land of Judah, through Christianity, that tempered the original cruel character of the ancient Indo-European tribes and instilled in their souls measures of compassion. When Europe tried to get rid of that cultural Judeo-Christian covering – as was done consciousely in Nazi Germany – then Europe returned to uniqualled barbarism.

Regarding the Kings that Reigned in the Land of Edom

And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Yisra’el. And Bel the son of Be’r reigned in Edom; and the name of his city was Dinhavah. And Bel died, and Yovav the son of Zera of Borah reigned in his place. And Yovav died, and usham of the land of the Temani reigned in his place. And usham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midyan in the field of Mo’av, reigned in his place; and the name of his city was vit. And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masreqah reigned in his place. And Samlah died, and Sha’ul of Reovot by the river reigned in his place. And Sha’ul died, and Ba’l-anan the son of khbor reigned in his place. And Ba’l-anan the son of khbor died, and Hadar reigned in his place; and the name of his city was Pa’; and his wife's name was Mehetav’el, daughter of Matred, daughter of Me-zahav.” (Gen. 36:31-39)

“The Kings of Edom” that seal Parahat vaYishla, bring us back into an enigmatic matters, that appear at the continuation of the renewed meeting of Ya’ạqov and Ẹsav. After the death of Yiẓḥaq, there comes a description of the family of Ẹsav, and the fourteen chiefs that issued from him. And after these – the detailed list of the eight kings noted above.

Before we turn to the profound interpretations that turned those kings that reigned in the Land of Edom into the representatives of bygone worlds, let us take a fresh look at the list of the eight kings. Seven of them “reigned and died” and only about Hadad, the last one, there is no mention of his death. What is mentioned about him? “and his wife's name was Mehetav’el, daughter of Matred, daughter of Me-zahav”. Only Hadar had a wife, and therefore he also had continuity[8].

It is of course possible to regard the detailed listing of the kings factually - and Rashi does so – as Edom was for much of its history subjected to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The first King of Israel – Sha’ul-Saul – was also the first to wage war against Edom. David conquere Edom and subjugated it, and since then on, Edom lived under the yoke of governors from the children of Israel and Judah. Rashi draws a parallel between these kings of Edom, who are mentioned in the Book of Genesis, and the eight kings of Israel who reigned over the Edomites – from Sha’ul till Yoram – “In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Yehudah, and made a king over themselves” (II Kings 8:20).

But Jewish mysticism was drawn to go much further, and regarded these eight kings – as well as their forefather Ẹsav – the representatives of “The World of Chaos” (Tohu) that preceded “The World of Restitution” (lam haTiqun) – which is the World of Yisra’el. In the Book of the Zohar, which was published (or even composed) in Castilia in Spain, towards the end of the Crusades, there started the fundamental (and perhaps obsessive) in the affair of “The Kings of Edom”.

In the commentary of the Zohar to Parashat vaYishla there is no special mention of those kings, apart from a mention from the Book of Ovadiah, that regards Ẹsav as “small and despised”. But in the most mysterious part of the Zohar - the Idra Raba – chooses to start with this affair, and sees in it the beginning and root for the revelation of the deepest secrets in the Torah including the countenaqnce of the Godhead:

The world is not maintained but through secret. And if the things of the world need secret, all the more so with the things of the secret-of-secrets of the Aqncient of Days, which are not given even to the arch-angels. Said Rabbi Shimen [Bar Yoḥay, the hero of the Zohar]: To the Heaven I do not tell to listen, and to the earth I do not tell to hear, because we, the makers of worlds [namely we the adiqim] have learnt the secrets of secrets. And when Rabbi Shimen started with the secrets of secrets, the earth trembled and the friends were shaken. He revealed in secret and started relating: it is written “and these are the kings that reigned in the Land of Edom before there reigned a king” etc. May it be the will of whom we pray for that this would not be considered a sin to reveal this secret. And what would the friends say about this verse, because it is a conundrum, because ostensbly there was no need to write all this, so we can see how many kings were in the land of Edom before there came the Children of Israel and before there was a king to the children of Israel. And what does it show here? But this is the secret of secrets, and humans cannot know and reflect in their minds about this. We have learnt: The ancient of all ancients, and the hidden of all hiddens, before he prepared his coverings and the decorations of his crowns, he still had no beginning and no end. And he was engraving and estimating in them [the Beginning and the End], and he spread before him one screen in which he engraved and estimated kings. And these marks did not endure, and this is what was said “and these are the kings that reigned in the Land of Edom before there reigned a king to the children of Yisra’el” - A primordial king to the antiquities of Yisra’el. And all these that were engraved, were called by their names. And they did not endure until He took them and hid them. And after that time, He was going up that screen and rectifying those coverings”. (translation, Y.H).

These enigmatic hints in the Idra Raba served in the Lurianic Kabbalah to propose a whole cosmology that explains in great detail the saying of the sages (Midrash Raba for Ecclesiastes/Qohelet, chapter 3) that before the creation of this world, the Holy One used to create worlds and destroy them, and also that “first the Lord created the world in the principle of Judgement (Midat haDin), saw that the world would not endure (like that) and joined to it the principle of Compassion (Midat haRaamim)”. This cosmology contributed the theological concept of “The Breaking of the Vessels” (Shevirat haKelim), “The World of bindings and world of spots” (lam ha’qudim velam haNequdim), “The World of Rectification” (lam haTiqun) and “the gathering of the Sparks” (berur haNioot).

To clarify a bit, we shall summarize from the book “In the Beginning” of Rabbi Ạdin Even-Yisra’el (Steinsalz), which opens with clarification of the concepts of “The World of Chaos” (lam haTohu) and “The World of Rectification” (lam haTiqqun):

The World of Chaos (Tohu), which only it's shuttering enabled the existence of our world – the World of Rectification – is “the Kingship of the Broken Vessels”, from which issues evil, and this is also the world of the Kings of Edom. The Kings of Edom fall and break, because each one of them is so perfect for himself, that he has no capacity to form any communication with the world outside himself. They are stubborn and unstable.

The broken shards of the vessels of the World of Tohu, are the elements of our world – the World of Tiqun – which is a broken world, in need of mending, but with the capacity to join and to mend.

People too may undergo an experience of “falling” like that of the vessels in the world of Tohu, and this is what happened to Ẹsav, who was initially destined for great deeds, for the senior role, only that he too was a product of the World of Tohu and Evil. When Ya’ạqov – the representative of the World of Tiqqun – set out to meet his brother after long years of separation, he had already rectified all the material world: he had a family, property, money, and now he was ready to receive light from the world of Tohu of his brother. He was convinced that his brother too must have undergone a process of maturation, like him. In such a case, the legitimate heir would have been Ẹsav, because the World of Tohu preceded the World of Tiqun. But Ẹsav, like all representatives of the World of Tohu, did not have in him the ability of changing. He just could not change.

Likewise the kings that issued from him – the Kings of Tohu – kings of exquisite kingdoms but – as the Bible relates – all those kings reigned and died, one after the other.

If only Ẹsav succeeded to join with his own original light, a light that Ya’ạqov was aware of, and even saw it moving behind Ẹsav, the whole of history would have been different. But it is only the people of Tiqqun who can internalize the light, and this is what Ya’ạqov did.

It seems, therefore, as if there are two types of people – the Man of the Field, of the exterior – and the dweller of tents, of the interior. When Ẹsav and Ya’ạqov work together – in harmony – also the world can reach perfection.

So according to this view, when Ya’ạqov promised to visit Ẹsav at Mount Se’ịr, he was not cheating, but makes an honest promise, for the end of days, the days of such harmony.

Transformations of the Ancient Kings and Implications for our time

To the extent that the (messianic) aim of the Torah - and the Bible in general – is the “Kingship”-Malkhut, then the verses about “the kings that reigned in the Land of Edom before there reigned a king for the children of Israel” are important, and it is likely that they have meaning also for our time.

In the historical analysis above, we have dealt with three chapters of the history of Edom: Chapter One - that took place at Mount Se’ịr, East of the Jordan valley, from where the Edomites were exiled by the Nabateans around 4th century BCE. Chapter Two - when the inner lowlands of the Land of Israel – the region of Mareshah and Bet Guvrin - became the new Edomea. Chapter three – when the Edomites became completely assimilated in Judea, but the Roman conqueror received the “title” of “Edomite”, and bequeathed it to all the Christian-European kingdoms.

So in addition to the kings of Edom from Mount Se’ịr, and to the kings of Edom in Judea (Herod and his sons), there would still be established a “Kingdom of Edom” in the Land of Israel, in the times of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. And this is quite amazing: in the course of the 88 years of the Crusader occupation of Jerusalem – there were crowned there exactly eight kings! Exactly the number of kings mentioned in Parashat vaYishla, and the number of kings who did reign over an independent Edom (between the 13th and the 10th centuries BC, until it was subjected by King David).

Even the characters of the Crusader Kings of Jerusalem were characteristic of the mythical ancient kings of the Land of Edom. The destiny of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem because its kings had no ability to change or to make a connection with the other “vessels” that lived in the region – primarily with their native vassals. Instead of learning the ways of the land[9], instead of assimilating to them the native people – they preferred to make do with their “European perfection” – to bring more reinforcements and goods from over the sea, and to kill the native inhabitants. They slaughtered and burnt alive the Jews and Moslems of Jerusalem and during all their years of reigning did not allow the Jews to return to the city. Also with those living around them they held no communications, but waged wars against them. Thus they remained stubborn and unstable, they reigned – and died.

The Arabs often compare the contemporary Israel to the Crusader kingdom, and it is worth considering. Modern Zionism returned to the land the Jews, who might be just one tribe (Judah) out of the whole ensemble of the Tribes of Israel. But Ya’ạqov - the representative of the World of Tiqun – begot twelve tribes, that only proper communications among them allows building, restoration, and long-term stability.

There are among the Jewish sages (for example, the Maharal) who discern in the long exile (which is called in Jewish tradition “The Exile of Edom”, and in parallel that in Islamic lands “The Exile of Yishma’el”), a hidden major historical goal: to gather in every place the sparks of the divine light (see above), which are hidden within the souls of the potential converts, and to bring them to the land of Israel, in order to restore there the Temple, and perhaps even the Garden of Eden. This means that divine sparks can be found – according to this interpretation – not only in the souls of Judah – the Jews – but also in all the souls of the potential Israel, in this case – the converts.

But the whole issue is still more complex: if indeed the Jews were exiled to the lands of “The Children of Yishmạ’el” and “the children of Ẹsav”, namely to the lands of their kin, than this exile is similar to the exile of Ya’ạqov in Ḥaran and his subjugation to Lavan, more than it is like the exile of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt and their subjugation to Pharaoh.

These two ancient exiles have indeed much in common: Israel emerged strengthened in numbers and with much property from both exiles, which they would not have been able to achieve if they stayed in the Land, under the marginal subsistence that the native people and their rulers would have allowed them. From both exiles they emerged with the full whole pattern (with Ya’ạqov almost full) of Twelve Tribes. But for Ya’ạqov (who tarried in the exile because of his love for a woman) there were added four women half of them were from his own family, and the rest who joined them were all his sons; whereas for the children of Israel (who went down to Egypt for much more basic needs - hunger and need to find sustenance) there were added many Gerim (converts or sojourners) - “the mixed multitudes” (who soon longed back to “the flesh pots of Egypt”.

In order to become worthy heirs of Ya’ạqov – the side of the World of Tiqqun – and that in his higher status of “Yisra’el”, we aught to rectify (taqen) that which our predecessors were not wise enough to heed – neither the eight Ḥashmonean kings, and certainly nor the eight Crusader Kings of Jerusalem: to complete the twelve-fold structure of Israel.[10] If we do not, than we may remain as the successors of Ẹsav - the representative of the World of Tohu; we may reign - and die out.


Appendices (not yet included):

‘A’ - The Tribe of Levi: A section of the (Hebrew) book of On Zayit “The Yisraeli People – the Lost Culture”, chapter 11 section 4.

‘B’ - The Ancient Kings of Edom and the Crusades

‘C’ – The World of Tohu and the World of Tiqun: (First Chapter of the book “In the Beginning” of Rabbi Adin Steinsalz.)

‘D’ – Of Angels (Mal’akhim), Cabbages (Kruvim/Cherubs) and Kings (Melakhim): The Camps of Shekhinah

[1]  See comment on the inverted tenses of Genesis, referring to events in future (our) times, at the Introduction in

[2] The gematria value of Ya’qov ve’sav yaad – “Jacob and Esau together” – amounts to 586, which equals the gematria value of hem Yisra’el – “are Israel” - (value 586), namely “Ya’ạqov and Ẹsav together – are Israel”.

[3] Just a bit less than eating, which appears 869 times.

[4] Netsa has to do with victory and rulership, and corresponds to the right leg; Hod has to do with thanking/confessing (hodayah) and corresponds with the left leg, Yesod corresponds to the genitals and has to do with survival and the relationship with the material, and Malkhut, which corresponds with the feet and has to do with the material and with action.

[5] Yisra’el” has to do with the Left side (the name is written and spoken in Hebrew with “Left Shin”, like the letter ‘S’, the one of the Left is he who dares, who strives with God and men and prevails. But from the Right side, his name is “Yeshurun” (with “Right shin”, like the letters ‘Sh’), namely the means for rectification. In the middle path, ‘Yisra’el’ is also ‘Yashar-El’, a straight (Yashar) person who takes the straight path, towards his genuine goal.

[6] In this proposition, by the way, there is another union which has not been consummated – the connection to Yishmel and with Mecca. The axis from Jerusalem to Mecca passes through the Land of Se’r, or Edom, whereas the way from Jerusalem to Shekhem (nowadays Nablus) passes over another axis. Ẹsav, who married with the House of Ishmael, invited his brother to return to the axis of Abraham and his family, and was not answered

[7] following Zekhariah 9:9 – “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of ion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your King comes to you; he is just, and victorious; humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass”.

[8] The genealogy of the wife of Hadar relates to her mothers and not to her fathers (or perhaps to both her father and mother), which returns us to the struggle between matriarchal and patriarchal societies.

[9] In Hebrew, Derekh Ere– literally “the Way of the Earth” is the term for civility. As the dictum states “Derekh Ere preceded (or even proceeds) the Torah”.

[10] In the contemporary Return to Zion (Shivat Tsion), there are hundreds of thousands who align with Israel, and this can certainly be seen as “gathering of sparks” or the best of these countries. Their very coming to Israel is evidence of their will to join, but nowadays they are required to adopt the Jewish identity, which is interpreted in accordance with the Jewish Shulan Arukh (“Set Table”, name of the practical codex of rabbinical Judaism), and there still has not been found for them an option of an “Israelite” identity, namely: of other tribes apart from Judah. It is possible today to integrate the “sparks” – the Gerim added from “The Exile of Edom” – along with our “Palestinian” neighbors – children of Abraham by dint of being “children of Yishma’el” and former Jews, and allow them the right to characterize themselves as tribes of Israel of their choice, even without imposing on them a Jewish Shulkhan Arukh.

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