Chukas — Yisrael’s Potential

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    Chukas 1 — Yisrael’s Potential:
    ויאמר ה’ אל משה ואל אהרן בהר ההר על גבול ארץ אדום לאמר יאסף אהרן אל עמיו
    Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon at Hor HaHar on the border of the land of Edom, saying, “Aharon shall be brought to his people” (Bamidbar 20:23–24).

    Rashi explains that the location, the border of Edom, is stressed to indicate that the Jews connected with the wicked people of Eisav; because of this wrongdoing, their venture was unsuccessful and Aharon died. Earlier in this perek (verses 14–21), Moshe sent messengers requesting passage through the land of Edom, who were the descendants of Eisav, yet this petition was rebuffed.

    There are several questions here. First, the pasuk indicates that they joined with Eisav, but how can this be true if we know that they were rebuffed? And even if we are to understand that they were being blamed for attempting to come close to Eisav, we know that they made similar peaceful overtures to the nations of Moav and Sichon when requesting passage, so why were they held accountable at this time?

    One simple explanation may be that after the first messengers were sent with their request (pasuk 14–17) and were rebuffed (pasuk 18), Bnei Yisrael made a subsequent request, as it says in pasuk 19, “Va’yomru eilav Bnei Yisrael — And the Children of Israel said to him [the king of Edom],” which was also turned down (pasuk 20). It seems that they ran this operation behind Moshe’s back. When Moshe’s attempt failed, he did not try again. However, the Yidden did not give up but tried once more. Thus, it seems that there was some sort of effort on the part of the Yidden to join and come close to the people of Eisav.
    And that is why Aharon died.

    According to the Sheim Mi’Shmuel (670), the problem was actually in the terminology the original messengers used. They said (verse 14), “Ko amar achicha Yisrael — So said your brother Yisrael.” They were invoking their kinship and trying to curry favor by saying, “We are your long-lost brothers.” They were indeed trying to join and come close.

    The difficulty with saying this is that the Torah itself describes Edom as our brother! We are enjoined not to hate the people of Edom: “Lo sesa’eiv Adomi ki achicha hu — You shall not reject an Edomite for he is your brother” (Devarim 23:8). If we are supposed to be “brotherly” toward Edom, how can the Jews be faulted for describing themselves to them as brothers?
    The answer could be that even though Yaakov and Eisav were brothers — since they were the biological offspring of the same parents — Yisrael and Edom have no relationship.

    The name Yisrael was given to Yaakov after he spent the night fighting with Eisav’s malach. The angel told him, “Lo Yaakov yei’amer od shimcha ki im Yisrael ki sarisa im Elokim ve’im anashim vatuchal — No longer will it be said that your name is Yaakov, but Yisrael, for you have striven with the Divine and with man and have overcome” (Bereishis 32:29).
    The name Yisrael represents the ability to handle all challenges. To struggle with life and its temptations and prevail. To deal with any adversity and succeed. This is what Yaakov demonstrated that night, and was therefore named Yisrael — one who strives and overcomes.

    We are all born as Bnei Yaakov, but we have the potential to activate the quality of Bnei Yisrael, which lies within us. It is this innate potential that separates Yisrael by a quantum leap from Eisav and his descendants. We are capable of so much more than others. We can prevail in every struggle.
    When they brought the message, “Ko amar achicha Yisrael — So said your brother Yisrael,” they lost sight of the fact that there is no connection between Yisrael and Edom.

    Yaakov and Edom are brothers, and Yaakov cannot reject Edom. But Yisrael and Edom do not even play in the same ballpark. We play in the majors; they play in the peewee league.

    In failing to grasp the concept that the potential of Yisrael is unlimited and that he cannot possibly be a brother to a mere Edom, what should have been two distinct and disparate entities were now coming closer. To speak of Edom and Yisrael in the same breath was a way of evening the playing field, which constituted a joining, a coming close, as Rashi writes. This caused the tzaddik to die.

    We must never lose sight of our potential!

    Someone in Monsey

    The issue between Esav and Ya’akov becomes troublesome when Ya’akov seeks out Esav. This is the lesson of parshas Vayishlach – when Ya’akov sent shluchim to Esav, Esav turned toward him with a threatening 400 men. The better path would have been not to approach Esav at all, simply returning to Canaan quietly. The Devarim posuk highlights for us when we are brothers with Esav – only when he seeks us out. He has little or nothing to offer us, so we have no need of him; but when he approaches us for assistance, we must welcome him as a brother.


    thank you for your comment.
    While I have seen or thought about Yaakovs possibility of returning “quitely” or un-noticed, it seems from the pessukim that Esav was already on his way, with the 400 men, even before the malachim came to him.

    Someone in Monsey

    I don’t think that’s clear from the pasukim. Rashi doesn’t say so, though I haven’t looked at other meforshim. Common sense would wonder why Esav would be heading toward Ya’akov before he was informed about the latter’s arrival. I think the simplest explanation is that Esav headed towards Ya’akov after being informed of his presence.

    catch yourself

    Chazal (perhaps even quoted by Rashi, though I don’tsay that HKBH had a taina on Yaakov Avinu for “grabbing the dog’s ear,” and inciting Eisav (“He was going on his way, and you send him all these gifts, and call yourself his servant?!”)
    IIRC, the Medrash makes clear that Klal Yisrael suffered the consequences of this misstep.


    I was unaware of the chazal כי יעקב היה מחזיק באזני כלב עובר. I see the Tzror HaMor citing a Zohar and giving answers as to why Yaakov did this.

    To paraphrase you: I thought the simplest explanation is that Esav headed towards Ya’akov after being informed of his presence. He had no way of silently going in.

    I always assumed that Esav was the one who started things, as the passuk saysוְגַם֙ הֹלֵ֣ךְ לִקְרָֽאתְךָ֔…” I took it to mean that Esav had heard about Yaakovs return and came out after him. Chicken or Egg.

    I saw this Bechor Shor and thought he was klor like you, that Esav did not come until after the malachim came to him
    וישלח יעקב מלאכים – כיון שקרב אצל עשו דאג מן השטימה שהייתה לעשו עליו, ושלח מלאכים לחפור ולרגל ולהכיר דעתו של עשו. ולא רצה להזכיר שום דרך שנאה, אלא כאדם ששולח לאחיו ולאוהבו לבשרו טוב עניינו
    but I still am not clear. While on the way to him, Esav could have heard that Yaakov was coming – so he and his men went out towards them.

    That is mashma from the Radak: וגם הולך לקראתך – ששמע שאתה בא, ואינו הולך לקראתך לשלום אלא למלחמה, כי הוא בא בארבע מאות איש, נראה כי להלחם עמך בא.

    This Rashbam klor says like you, that Esav only came after meeting with the malachim. Its just amazing that they were coming to be mechabed Yaakov, See also Chizkuni.
    באנו אל אחיך אל עשו – ומצאת חן בעיניו כאשר אמרת,
    וגם הנה הוא מתוך ששמח בביאתך ובאהבתו אותך, הולך לקראתך וארבע מאות איש עמו – לכבודך, זהו עיקר פשוטו. וכן: גם הנה הוא יוצא לקראתך וראך ושמח בלבו (שמות ד׳:י״ד).

    thank you for your questions and good points.

    Reb Eliezer

    There is a saying, let sleeping dogs lie. There is a pasuk in Mishlei (26,17) quoted by the Midrash Rabba (75,3) in indicating that yaakov Avinu should have never be concerned with Aisov and fight a battle that does not apply to him like grabbing on to a dogs ear that is running away. The Binah Leitim says that vayiro Yaakov meod vayetzer lo, Yaakov Vavinu had pain that he was afraid of Aisov in the first place.


    very good

    Reb Eliezer

    There is a nice gematria Yisroel (541) adds up to Yaakov (182) plus satan (359) encompassing the powers of his adversary after defeating him.


    I always likes The Rizhiner who said that when yaakov bought the Bechora, he said Michra ChaYom…
    He bought a day.
    Yaakov is 182, taking the Bechora -Pi Shenayim, he becomes 364.
    The day he bought from Esav is the 365th day, the day of Yom Kippur. The day that Saro shel esav has no shelita…..

    Reb Eliezer

    You know the Midrash that Hasatan is 364 as he has no control for one day.

    The Maasei Hashem explains the connection of the selling of the birthrite to the request of the lentils. Yaakov Avinu knew what was told to his mother Rivkah. The elder will serve the younger.He said, if you want me to serve you by giving you lentils, I need to be the older.


    yes, i thought that would have been appearent from the totalaty of what I cited from the Rizhiner

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