1. “And Ya’akov sent messengers” Rabbi Yehuda begins with a discussion of the Good Inclination and the Evil Inclination, two angels that constantly abide by man.
When man is virtuous, the Good Inclination gains dominion over the Evil Inclination, and the right side prevails over the left. Rabbi Elazar then speaks of the Shechinah and the legions of holy angels who protected David from the King of Gat, and Ya’akov when he was delivered from Lavan. In the ensuing dialogue, the rabbis analyze when and why Ya’akov was “left alone” by the angels and how he managed to prevail over Esav’s minister.
Finally,Rabbi Shimon explains Ya’akov’s actions in sending a band of angels to Esav in order to bring about a reconciliation, in fulfillment of the verse, “Better is one lightly esteemed…” The Relevance of this Passage When we know that a specific action is positive and in our best interests, another voice inside inevitably talks us out of it.
When we know that a particular behavior or action is negative, something impels us to engage in it anyway, even though we don’t really want to. These are the Good and Evil Inclinations at work. We must recognize these two urges as distinct voices battling for control over our behavior.
The moment we recognize the Evil Inclination as our true enemy, we can begin to remove its influence over us. The spiritual forces arising from this section reveal this metaphysical truth, endowing us with the strength to resist and overcome our negative tendencies.
1. “And Ya’akov sent messengers…” (Beresheet 32:4). Rabbi Yehuda began the discussion with the verse: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Tehilim 91:11). This verse has already been explained by the friends. When man is born, the Evil Inclination enters with him and constantly denounces him, as it is written, “sin crouches at the door” (Beresheet 4:7). What is meant by “sin cronches”? It refers to the Evil Inclination. “…AT THE DOOR” MEANS AT THE OPENING OF THE WOMB–AT A PERSON’S BIRTH.
2. David also called THE EVIL INCLINATION BY THE NAME ‘sin’, as it is written, “and my sin is ever before me” (Tehilim 51:5). This is because it tempts man every day to sin before his Master. The Evil Inclination never leaves man, from the day of his birth. The Good Inclination comes to man only when he seeks purity.
3. And when does man seek purity? On his thirteenth birthday, man joins with the Good Inclination on the right and the Evil Inclination on the left. They are literally two appointed angels found constantly with man.
4. When man seeks to be purified, the Evil Inclination is humbled before him, and the right rules over the left. And both–THE GOOD INCLINATION AND THE EVIL INCLINATION–watch over man whichever way he travels. This is the essence of the verse: “For He shall give His angels charge over you to keep you all your
ways” (Tehilim 91:11).
5. Rabbi Elazar applies this verse to Ya’akov. As the Holy One, blessed be He, surrounded Ya’akov with legions of angels, because he came complete with the supernal tribes, who were in a state of perfection. As it is written: “And Ya’akov continued on his way, and angels of Elohim met him” (Beresheet 32:2). It has been explained that after being saved from Lavan, and departing from him, the Shechinah joined Ya’akov, and legions of saintly angels surrounded him. At that point “Ya’akov said when he saw them” (Ibid. 3). From these angels, he sent a group to Esav. This is the meaning of the verse: “And Ya’akov sent messengers (also angels).” Surely these were real angels.
6. Rabbi Yitzchak said: It is written, “The angel of Hashem encamps round about those who fear Him, and he delivers them” (Tehilim 34:8). This verse has already been explained. But in another place, it is written, “For He shall give His angels charge over you,” NAMELY, many angels, whereas here ONLY one is mentioned, as it is written, “The angel of Hashem encamps.” HE ANSWERS: The verse, “For He shall give His angels charge over you,” refers to angels in general, but THE VERSE, “The angel of Hashem,” refers to the Shechinah, as it is written: “And the angel of Hashem appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Shemot 3:2). JUST AS IT REFERS TO THE SHECHINAH IN THE FIRST VERSE, SO THE ANGEL MENTIONED HERE ALSO POINTS TO THE SHECHINAH. And so, “the angel of Hashem encamps round about those who fear Him,” to encircle them in every direction so as to deliver them. And when the Shechinah resides inside man, all the holy hosts come there.
7. Come and behold. When King David was saved from Achish, King of Gat, he said: “THE ANGEL OF HASHEM ENCAMPS…” For the Shechinah surrounded him and saved him from Achish, his people, and those who attacked him. As it is written, “Vayitholel (Eng.’feigned himself mad’) in their hands” (I Shmuel 21:14). HE ASKS: Why is it written “Vayitholel” rather than ‘Vayishtage’a’, as it is written, “you have brought this fellow to play the mad man (Heb. lehishtage’a) in my presence?” (I Shmuel 21:16).
8. HE ANSWERS: THIS VERSE refers to what David said earlier. As it is written: “For I was envious of the Holelim (‘madmen’)…” (Tehilim 73:3). So the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Upon your life, you shall be in need of that yet. And when he came to the house of Achish and was attacked, it is written, “He feigned himself mad in their hands,” like those Holelim (‘madmen’) he first envied WHEN HE SAID, “FOR I WAS ENVIOUS OF THE MADMEN.” Only then did the Shechinah come and protect him. She dwelt there, around David.
9. You may ask, if the Shechinah resides only in Her own place, which is the Holy Land, WHY WAS THE SHECHINAH UPON HIM IN GAT, WHICH IS OUTSIDE THE HOLY LAND? HE ANSWERS: She certainly does not dwell outside the land of Yisrael for people to draw PLENTY from Her, but can dwell OUTSIDE to rescue men. Thus, when Ya’akov arrived from the house of Lavan, all the holy camps encircled him and did not leave him alone.