Parshas Vayishlach-Torah Or-The secret mission of Yaakov in his meeting Eisav

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Vayikach Min Haba Biyado Mincha ….…”

[Torah Or p. 24]

The Mamar of this week’s Parsha discusses the episode of the meeting between Yaakov and Eisav. Yaakov ran away from his brother after conniving to receive the blessings from his father. He moved to Charan and remained there for twenty years. After completing his work at the home of his father in-law Lavan, marrying four wives, and bringing eleven of the Twelve Tribes into the world, Yaakov traveled to greet Eisav. In the Parsha, Yaakov makes numerous preparations towards this looming meeting, full of dread and fear of the possible outcome of the reunion with his murderous brother. Yaakov sends many presents to Eisav and prepares messengers with a message of reconciliation for his brother. He even goes as far as referring to Eisav as “His master” and himself as “Eisav’s servant”. Yaakov then meets his brother Eisav and performs an entire ceremony of subjugation before his brother.

The reader of this episode is left baffled by many aspects. Why did Yaakov feel it was necessary to meet his brother Eisav? He had not bothered him for over three decades. What made him think Eisav would suddenly come after him? Where is the Gaon Yaakov, the pride of Jacob? How could he put himself down to such an extent before his evil brother? One of the types of people that the Torah states will not receive a portion in the world to come is the “Kas Chanafim”, those that flatter the wicked. What greater flattery was there than the entire procession that Yaakov performed of bows and presents? Yaakov and his family bowed down to Eisav numerous times. He called Eisav his master and stated that seeing him is like seeing the “face of G-d.” How could he say such words to a murderer, and to one who carries the flag of evil? Imagine if the greatest Sage of the Jewish people met with the pope, bowed to him, and called him his master, “the face of G-d”? Would this Sage not be forever doomed in our history for betrayal and cowardliness? Furthermore Yaakov was righteous and had received promises from G-d for his safety. Why would he fear his brother Eisav, the side of evil, and not have trust in Hashem, that Hashem would protect him? Furthermore, Yaakov had received the blessings from his father Yitzchak. Did he really think that Eisav could overcome him if he received the blessings of life?  

These questions are all touched upon in the Mamar, through the Alter Rebbe’s explanation and clarification of the true meaning of the episode of Yaakov’s meeting with Eisav. In truth, a sublime spiritual mission was performed through this meeting and all of its preparatory details. Eisav represents the sparks of Tohu, while Yaakov represents the world of Tikkun. Yaakov desired to refine Eisav and bring down his sublime lights into the realm of Holiness. Was this accomplished? Was Eisav refined? This we will discover in the Mamar!


Explorations of the Mamar

1.      Why was Yaakov so humble in the presence of Eisav? Where was his Jewish pride?

2.      What was the meaning behind the gifts that Yaakov sent?

3.      What spiritual advantage does Eisav contain over Yaakov?

4.       What secret spiritual mission was Yaakov attempting to accomplish through his meeting?


The root of Yaakov and Eisav:

It is known that the root of Yaakov is in the Divine name “Mah”, the world of Tikkun. The root of Eisav, however, is in the world of Tohu, the world of the seven primordial kings that ruled and died.[1] As the lights of the world of Tohu are very great, they were unable to be invested within their vessels and retain stability. This caused the vessels to shatter and the pieces of the vessels to fall into the lower worlds. These pieces of the vessels carried within them sparks of Divine light. [This is similar to a hot glass cup filled with water that shatters due to the heat. Although most of the water spills out, there are drops of water that remain in the pieces of glass that fall.] Eisav below derives from the sparks that fell. Hence, he was the epitome of Kelipa, evil, as the evil within him was sourced from the sparks of Tohu, which is higher than other Divine lights even found in Kedusha, which is represented by Yaakov.

The secret spiritual mission intended by Yaakov: 

The simple reading of the Parsha implies that the entire meeting and procession that took place between Yaakov and Eisav was simply to appease his brother from killing him and his family. However, in truth Yaakov had a Divine and secret mission to accomplish. Yaakov knew that Eisav contained within him Divine lights of Tohu that were much greater than his own level of Kedusha from Tikkun. Yaakov desired to refine these sparks from Eisav and bring them into his own level so that he could use them for Kedusha. In order to accomplish this, however, both Yaakov and Eisav would have to be refined. Yaakov would have to complete the refinement of his world of Tikkun in order to prepare it to receive the light of Tohu contained within Eisav. Likewise, Eisav would have to refine his level of Kelipa in order for his sparks of Tohu to be released and given over to Yaakov in Kedusha.

Yaakov therefore delayed meeting Eisav for over 22 years, because he was busy refining and preparing his world of Tikkun to be able to receive light from the Tohu of Eisav. This is also why Yaakov told Eisav that he had observed all the 613 commandments while he lived with Lavan. The meaning of this message was not to torment Eisav or relate to him information that was of no concern, but rather to relate to Eisav that Yaakov was ready to receive the light of Tohu from Eisav. For this reason, Yaakov originally sent a messenger to Eisav prior to the meeting, in order to relate this message to Eisav. This is also the meaning of the term “Lefanav” [that Yaakov sent messengers before him], as this hints that Yaakov sent the messenger to a level higher than himself, the level of Tohu found within Eisav.


Eisav’s answer to Yaakov’s request:

The Malachim [messengers] that Yaakov sent to Eisav returned with a very bad report. They told Yaakov that Eisav was coming towards him with 400 men. They reported to Yaakov that although he was perfectly ready to receive the lights of Tohu retained within Eisav, Eisav was still found in his place of evil and had not refined himself to the point that he was able to release his sparks of Kedusha. The 400 men that escorted Eisav were a proof that Eisav was still unrefined, as the 400 men represented the 400 harsh severities that were created from the 400 Shekel Kesef that Avraham gave when he purchased the Cave of Machpelah for Sarah’s burial. When Yaakov heard this, he understood that he did not stand a chance of having Eisav draw down to him his level at that time. Therefore, Yaakov made preparatory steps for drawing the sparks of Kedusha from Eisav on his own.

The mystical meaning of the presents Yaakov sent Eisav:

As a preparatory step for drawing down the Kedusha from Eisav, Yaakov had to arouse this Kedusha from within Eisav and make it desire to be drawn to him. This is called a Haalas Man, an arousal from below. The verse states that Yaakov offered presents to his brother Eisav in anticipation of their meeting. The present consisted of many species of animals. These presents are referred to as “Mincha”. This Mincha was the “Haalas Man” that Yaakov brought to arouse the Kedusha found within Eisav. It consisted of many animals, including camels, which are impure animals. The animals presented to Eisav were equivalent to the performance of the Karbanos during the times of the Temple. Yaakov was presenting a set of Karbanos to Eisav in order to arouse the Kedusha within him, similar to the arousal that is affected by the Karbanos of the Jewish people, which give Hashem a “Reiach Nichoach”.  The Karbanos serve as an arousal from below towards Heaven. They are called Reiach, a scent. Just as a scent revives the soul, the Karban causes Elokus to descend into and reside within one’s soul.

The term Mincha represents the above effect of our Avoda. Mincha stands for Ma’n, an arousal from below, Ches, which is Chochmah, and Hei, which is Malchus. This means that through our Avoda, which is called Mincha, we arouse Chochmah to descend into Malchus and give it revelation. When the Torah was given, it dictated to us the specifics of the Karbanos, in terms of which animals may be brought and how they should be slaughtered. This is because the Karbanos are elevated to the world of Atzilus, the world of Tikkun, which works in accordance to the laws of the Torah. Hence only kosher animals may be brought as a Karban. And these animals must first be slaughtered. However, the Karbanos that Yaakov sent to Eisav were Karbanos that relate to the world of Tohu, and in the world of Tohu Torah limitations are not applicable. Therefore Yaakov sent even impure animals, such as the camel, and live animals as the Karban. It was specifically these Karbanos that had the ability to arouse the Kedusha of Tohu found within Eisav.

Why did Yaakov flatter Eisav?

Based on the above, one can also understand that Yaakov did not have any intent of flattering Eisav the Rasha or subjugating and humbling himself before evil. In truth, Yaakov was humbling himself before the Kedusha found within Eisav, which was even higher than his own level of Kedusha of Tikkun. For this reason, Yaakov referred to Eisav as his master, as in truth the sparks of Tohu found in Eisav are greater and the master of the level of Tikkun.


Why did Yaakov Daven?

The purpose of the prayer of Yaakov to Hashem was not simply as a request to G-d to protect him. Rather, Yaakov was davening that Hashem give him the supernal spiritual powers of his forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak to help him and assist him in refining Eisav. Yaakov wanted to draw down the Makkifim of Kedusha from the Avos.  

Why did Yaakov split his camp?

As part of the tactical preparations for any outcome of these events, Yaakov split his camp into two. This was also part of Yaakov’s Divine plan to arouse the Kedusha of Tohu found within Eisav. The major difference between Tohu and Tikkun is that Tohu contains only two Kavim, while Tikkun contains three. The following is the explanation: Tohu contains only two modes and characters, Chesed and Gevurah. Every Sefirah in Tohu is either on the line of Chesed or the line of Gevurah, and there is no middle ground between them. This is what caused the collapse of the vessels of Tohu, as it contained opposite extremes without any medium to unite them. However, Tikkun is composed of three Kavim, or three different paths – Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferes. Tiferes mediates and combines the opposing aspects of Chesed and Gevurah. This mediating Sefirah of Tiferes gave Tikkun its stability. Now, Yaakov desired to arouse the Kedusha found within Eisav, which was from Tohu. Therefore, he had to perform an arousal that is similar to Tohu, which contains two opposite extremes. Hence, Yaakov split his camp into two to hint towards the two lines of character found in Tohu.


Yaakov wrestles with the angel of Eisav:[2]

Prior to the meeting of Yaakov [Tikkun] and Eisav [Tohu], there was a battle between Yaakov and the angel of Eisav. The battle of Yaakov and Eisav represented a desperate fight of the Samech Mem [Satan] against the side of Kedusha. The Samech Mem desired to nurture itself from the Holiness of Yaakov and thereby give extra power to the side of evil. In the end, however, not only was the Samech Mem not successful in nurturing itself from the Kedusha of Yaakov, but on the contrary, Yaakov ended up refining part of the evil of the Samech Mem and elevating it to Kedusha. This is the meaning of Chazal’s statement that “the dust of  the battle reached to the Kisei Hakavod” – that the dust, which is the Kelipa of the Samech Mem, was elevated to the Kisei Hakavod, which is the level of Malchus in which it was refined.

The bowing of Yaakov:

The verse states that Yaakov bowed down to Eisav as he was greeting him. Yaakov bowed a total of seven times. This bowing represented picking up the sparks before Eisav. [Thus, although superficially the bowing appeared to be like a subjugation of Yaakov towards Eisav, in truth this was all part of Eisav’s refinement and the collecting of the sparks of Tohu by Yaakov.]


Eisav ran towards Yaakov:

After Eisav saw all the above actions performed by his brother, he came running towards him with excitement and passion to greet him. This represents the yearning of the Kedusha found within Eisav to unite with Yaakov. “Eisav” here refers to the power of Eisav in Kedusha, and this power ran to greet Yaakov in a similar manner to a spark that is near a flame and runs to greet it.


Eisav hugged Yaakov:

When Yaakov and Eisav met, Eisav hugged Yaakov. This hug represented the Hashpaah, diffusion of Kedusha, from Eisav to Yaakov. In this case, Eisav was the Mashpia, the giver, while Yaakov was the Mikabel, the receiver. Hence it was Eisav, the giver of Kedusha, who hugged Yaakov, the receiver of the Kedusha

The cry of Eisav and Yaakov:

After they embraced, Yaakov and Eisav cried on each other. This cry was a cry of joy, the joy of the unity brought into effect between Tohu and Tikkun, Yaakov and Eisav. The sparks of Tohu now being included in Yaakov, in Tikkun, were similar to two friends seeing each other after the passage of many years. Since the time of the Sheviras Hakeilim, the Kedusha in Tohu had not been found within a vessel. Thus, when these Divine lights found in Eisav finally met the vessels of Yaakov after so many years; it caused a cry of emotion. 

The Birur of Eisav in the future:

Although the meeting of Yaakov and Eisav certainly helped to refine the Divine sparks of Tohu found within Eisav, it did not complete his refinement. The complete refinement of Eisav, when he too will be turned into Makkif of Kedusha, will only be accomplished in the future, when evil will be eradicated and Hashem will turn all the nations to serve Him.


The meaning behind uniting Tohu with Tikkun in Avodas Hashem:

In Avodas Hashem, the world of Tohu represents the heart and emotions of one’s service of G-d. Tohu is the extreme feeling of passion and longing to cleave to G-dliness, even to the extent of experiencing the expiration of the soul. Tikkun, on the other hand, is the performance of Mitzvos in this world, the realm of speech and action. In truth, one must incorporate both aspects within his service of G-d. One must have fiery passion to cleave to Him, and at the same time remain focused on the fact that the only true method of cleaving to Him is through His Torah and Mitzvos below in this world.


Lessons of the Mamar

In recent years, the world has seen a strong revival of the Jewish spirit, with many seeking to return to their Jewish roots and a desire to quench their ever thirsty souls. The Baal Shem Tov was sent into this world to begin the process of awakening the Jewish heart and its seed of emotion. The Chassidic masters in each generation further developed this yearning of the Jewish soul. This thirst, however, cannot be quenched simply through song and prayer. Rather, it requires action. It is the action of the Torah and Mitzvos that bring this  Jewish yearning into its proper vessel, and only through doing so can one cleave to G-d. This unity represents the bringing of the sparks of Tohu [passion for G-d] into the vessels of Tikkun [Mitzvos] and accomplishes that which our forefather Yaakov desired all along from his meeting with Eisav. The Alter Rebbe constantly teaches us the importance of arousing passionate love for G-d, while the Rebbe emphasizes the importance of offering a Jew a chance to do a practical Mitzvah even on his first acquaintance with Judaism. It is this fine harmony of the yearning of the soul and its embellishment within the realm of physicality that formats the union of Tohu and Tikkun and brings Moshiach here today!


[1] This refers to the seven Sefiros of Tohu that shattered, and became known as Sheviras Hakeilim.

[2] Torah Or, Mamar Vayevak Ish Imo on p. 26

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