Parashas Vayishlach

Regarding the night before Yaakov’s encounter with Eisav, the Torah writes (Bereishis 32:25): “And Yaakov remained alone, and a man grappled with him until dawn.” The Midrash expounds (Bereishis Rabbah 77:1):
It is written (Devarim 33:26): “There is none like God, Yeshurun – He rides across heaven to help you.” … R. Berechya said in the name of R. Siemon: “There is none like God. And who is like God, Yeshurun? Yisrael, the elder [i.e., Yaakov]. Regarding Hashem it is written (Yeshayah 2:11):  “Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.” And regarding Yaakov it is written: “And Yaakov remained alone.”
The Maggid sets out to explain this Midrash. He begins with a teaching from Shabbos 133b. It is written (Shemos 15:2): “This is my God, and I will glorify Him.” The Gemara expounds: “‘And I will glorify Him (ואנוהו)’ – be like Him (הוי דומה לו). Just as He is gracious and compassionate, so you, too, be gracious and compassionate.” The Gemara is calling on us to emulate Hashem as much as we can. Now, the Midrash we quoted from Bereishis Rabbah notes that one of Hashem’s traits is that there is none like Him. Accordingly, we must emulate Hashem in this respect as well, and develop ourselves into a unique nation within the world. In this vein, the Gemara teaches (Berachos 6b):
The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Klal Yisrael: “You have made Me a unique entity within the world, and I will make you a unique entity within the world.” You have made Me a unique entity within the world – as it is written (Devarim 6:4): “Hear, O Yisrael, Hashem, our God, Hashem is one.” And I shall make you a unique entity within the world – as it is written (Divrei HaYamim Alef 17:21): “And who is like Your people Yisrael, a unique nation upon the earth.”
We can take the matter a step further. Beyond the duty of the Jewish People as a whole to stand out as unique among the nations of the world, it is the duty of each individual Jew to make himself outstanding. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 37a teaches that Hashem started the world with a single man so that each person would say, “On my account the world was created.” Elsewhere, the Gemara develops a related theme. At the end of Sefer Koheles, Shlomo HaMelech states (Koheles 12:13): “The matter has ended, all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for that is the entirety of man.” The Gemara in Berachos 6b teaches the entire world was created only for the sake of the man who fears God and keeps His commandments. We see from these two Talmudic teachings that a single upright and wholehearted man is enough to warrant the creation of the entire world. Each Jew must strive to perfect his character to the point where he could be that one man.
Avraham, in his time, served in this role. Regarding him, Hashem exhorts (Yeshayah 51:2): “Look to Avraham your forefather … for when he was but one alone I summoned him.” Hashem called Avraham “one” because he was wholehearted in deed and of perfect character in every respect. Thus it was with Yitzchak as well. And thus it was with Yaakov, whom the Torah calls a “wholehearted man” (Bereishis 25:27).  It is in this vein that the Midrash we quoted at the outset draws a comparison between Hashem and Yaakov: “There is none like God. And who is like God, Yeshurun? Yisrael, the elder. Regarding Hashem it is written, ‘Hashem alone will be exalted on that day,’ and regarding Yaakov it is written, ‘and Yaakov remained alone.’” Just as Hashem is unique, so, too, Yaakov was unique – and it is our mission to make ourselves unique as well.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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