SALT - Sunday, 13 Kislev 5781 - November 29, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Torah in Parashat Vayishlach (33:18) tells that after Yaakov’s meeting with Eisav, “va-yavo Yaakov shaleim ir Shekhem.”  The Rashbam (see also Chizkuni) explains this verse to mean that Yaakov arrived in a city called Shaleim, which was under the control of a person named Shekhem.  As we read in the next section, Shekhem – the son of the local governor – abducted and violated Yaakov’s daughter, Dina, prompting two of Dina’s brothers to launch a deadly assault on the city.  According to the Rashbam, the name of this city was Shaleim, which was under the control of Shekhem, the prince of the region. 
Most commentators, however, understand this verse differently, explaining that Yaakov arrived “shaleim” – peacefully (Ibn Ezra), or “whole” (Rashi, Radak, Ramban) – in the city called Shekhem, whose prince bore the same name.  The word “shaleim,” according to these commentators, is not the name of a geographical location, but rather an adjective describing Yaakov’s condition.  After spending many years abroad, and after his dreaded reunion with his brother, Yaakov arrived peacefully in the outskirts of Shekhem.
            This interpretation of the verse appears also in the Gemara, in Masekhet Shabbat (33b), where the Gemara explains that Yaakov was “whole” in the three ways: physically (“be-gufo”), financially (“be-mamono”), and spiritually (“be-Torato”).  Rashi, in his commentary to this verse, writes that Yaakov was financially “whole” in the sense that “lo chaseir kelum mi-kol oto doron” – “he lacked nothing as a result of that gift.”  Yaakov had sent an enormous gift to Eisav, consisting of hundreds of animals, in an attempt to assuage his anger, but God saw to it that Yaakov did not suffer any financial harm as a result of this expenditure.
            Rashi’s comments become especially meaningful in light of his remark earlier (32:22), citing the Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 76:8), that after Yaakov sent the gift to Eisav, “he was in a state of anger that he needed to do all this.”  The Midrash depicts Yaakov as frustrated and resentful that he needed to resort to sending large herds of valuable cattle to Eisav in an attempt to pacify his rage.  It upset him that an unfortunate sequence of events led to this.
            In the end, however, Yaakov emerged “shaleim be-mamono,” financially “complete,” having lost nothing as a result of the expensive bribe given to his brother.  Yaakov felt upset over incurring this cost, but in the end, it did not matter.  So often in life, we allow ourselves to feel upset and aggravated over something which, in the grand scheme of things, ends up having little or no effect on us.  Yaakov was unsettled by the cost he incurred to appease his brother, but ultimately, this made no difference, because he emerged from the experience “shaleim be-mamono.”  Rashi’s two comments remind us to try to maintain a healthy perspective, to avoid feelings of frustration and angst when life does not proceed the way we want it to, and to trust that somehow, we will emerge from the undesirable situation “shaleim” – complete and whole in every way.