Parashas Vayeishev

This week’s parashah opens with the words (Bereishis 37:1): “And Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojourning, in the land of Canaan.” The opening Midrash in the section in Midrash Rabbah on the parashah expounds (Bereishis Rabbah 84:1):
It is written (Yeshayah 57:13): “When you muster yourselves together, your assemblies shall save you [literally, let your assemblies save you] (בְּזַעֲקֵךְ יַצִּילֻךְ קִבּוּצַיִךְ). It was taught: “His [Yaakov’s] assembling and the assembling of his sons saved him from the hand of Eisav. It is written further (ibid.): “The wind will carry them all off, a breath will clear them away.” This refers to Eisav and his chieftains. And it written further (ibid.): “And he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land.” This refers to Yaakov – thus, “And Yaakov settled.”
Although the word זַעֲקֵךְ can denote crying out, the Maggid understands that the Midrash is reading the word זַעֲקֵךְ in the verse in Yeshayah as denoting mustering [cf. Metzudos], as in Shoftim 4:10 (“And Barak mustered Naftali and Zevulun at Kadesh”) or Shoftim 4:13 (“And Sisera mustered his chariots”). It seems that the Midrash is saying that the simple act of assembling brings us salvation. The Maggid asks: How can this be?
The Maggid then presents an answer. There is a fundamental difference between how the Jews wage war and how other nations wage war. The fighting power of other nations stems from the might of their soldiers and the potency of their weapons. The more soldiers and weapons a nation has at its disposal, the better the chance it has to win. The Jewish People, however, do not rely on their own might, but instead rely on Hashem to crush their enemies. Thus it is written (Zechariah 4:6): “‘Not through an army and not through might [shall you prevail], but through My spirit,’ said Hashem, Master of Legions.” Jewish soldiers occasionally bear weapons, but, in truth, the weapons are not needed to bring them victory, but only to give them an emotional boost.
Now, given that Hashem is fighting the Jewish People’s battles, and they have no real need for weapons, we might also think that there is no need for the Jews to assemble themselves to wage war, for Hashem does not need a large contingent of soldiers to save His people. Indeed, precisely this reasoning led Yehoshua to go out to his first battle against Ai with a limited number of men; for the second battle, Hashem directed him to take the entire Jewish People. Why, in truth, do the Jewish People have to assemble for battle?
The reason is that, although our fate does not depend on our physical might, it does depend on our spiritual worthiness: Hashem looks for some merit in us order to judge us deserving of salvation. Hashem therefore desires that we assemble for battle, so that our collective merit and eminence should be apparent. In this vein, our Sages say (Berachos 8a), the prayer of an assembled community is greater than that of individuals, as it is written (Iyov 36:5, homiletically), “Behold, God does not reject the great.” When we Jews assemble together in large numbers to pray to Hashem for help, Hashem counts it as a great merit for us that we all have cast their burden on Him with solid faith in His saving power, and it is through this merit that we gain victory.
This is what the Midrash is saying when it teaches that the simple act of assembling brings us salvation. And this is how Yaakov gained his deliverance from Eisav. Although he prepared for battle, dividing his company into two camps, in actuality his battle preparations made no contribution toward his deliverance. It was solely on account of the faith Yaakov and his sons showed in Hashem’s saving power that Hashem saved them. Accordingly, the Midrash applies to Yaakov the words of Yeshayah’s prophecy: “He who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.