Thursday, November 18, 2010

Parashat Vayishlach. Two Camps

Some questions for the parsha. Please feel free to add answers in the comments section.

We all know the story. Yaakov prepares for his encounter with Esav by means of "prayer, war preparations, and gifts." (see Rashi 32:9)

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying: 'We came to thy brother Esau, and moreover he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.' 8 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed. And he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two camps. 9 And he said: 'If Esau come to the one camp, and smite it, then the camp which is left shall escape.' (32:7-9)

· How does this "splitting" or "halving" the people help Yaakov? He says that if one camp is killed, then the other will escape. But, how does Yaakov know in which camp to place himself? How is he sure that he will be in the camp that will get away? And what is to say that Esav will not hunt down the second camp?

· Interestingly, the Rashbam suggests (see 32:23) that when Yaakov gets up in the middle of the night and crosses his family over the river, he is escaping to avoid a confrontation with Esav. Is this the "two camp" thing? Yaakov leaves everyone else in the camp, and runs off with his family!

· And then the mysterious angel fights with him all night. He emerges bruised and limping in the morning and is immediately confronted unawares by Esav:

"And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. (33:1)"

This seems like an attempt to follow the original plan of "splitting the camp." But what effect does it have here? Is it merely a feeble attempt to follow the planned choreography? Why use the same word - ויחץ?

· One further point here regarding the splitting into "two camps." Halving the camps would appear top be a bad thing… due to Esav's impending attack and bloodbath ("women and children" - 32:10) Yaakov divides his camp into two as an act of defense. And yet, in his prayer (32:11) Yaakov expresses God's extensive kindness –chesed – in that "now I have become two camps," as if it were a good thing! (And see the end of last week's parasha - מחניים) So... two camps – good or bad?

No comments: