How Jacob and Esau Teach Rebbe Nachman-VaYishlakh

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Arik Ascherman‎‏ ב- יום חמישי, 12 בדצמבר 2019

Anybody who has been following my divrei Torah over the years knows that I view Parashat Va’Yiskhlakh as one of the spiritual highlights of the Torah.  Jacob wrestles with the unknown being that is actually the not so nice part of himself he had to acknowledge, in order to have God present when he reconciles with his brother in the morning.  He calls the place of his wrestling, “Peniel,” because he saw the Face of God there. (Genesis 32:31) When embracing Esau he says that seeing the face of his brother is like seeing “pnei Elohim,” the Face of God (Genesis 33:10) .  Esau speaks the incredibly spiritual utterances that would change the world, if we all adopted and internalized it, “I have enough brother, let what you have remain with you.” (Genesis 33:9).  All of the attempts by our rabbis to demonize Esau because “Esau” becomes code for “Rome” don’t change the plain meaning of the text.

While I can’t resist summarizing what I read in this Torah portion, I also want enrich our Shabbat with something new.  So, a Iyun Tefillah, a teaching on one of our prayers.

After several days of quiet for the Bedouin Palestinian shepherds of Rashash, and almost three hours of quiet grazing yesterday, the calm was shattered by the appearance of one of the troubled youth that somehow Israel sends to the settler outpost, “Malakhei HaShalom,”even though it is illegal according to the State of Israel.  (Yes, I know you have also seen and heard plenty from me about Malakhei HaShalom.  I promise something new.)

At first, there was only on young man on horseback, with a dog. He didn’t do much more than circle around the flocks, and take pictures.  This was much better than the days the horses charge near or into the flocks, scattering them. However, two more youth showed up, in an ATV, and with a boom box.  Amazingly, even the blaring music didn’t succeed in scaring the goats, as in the past.  Just as the shepherds now feel empowered to ignore the settlers when they content themselves with verbal threats, the goats seemed to have learned to do the same – at least for yesterday.

But what was the boom box blaring??  It is hard to make out the words on the video clips, the song was about the holy Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav, and the merits of spending Rosh HaShana in Umman, where he died and is buried.   There are many who think very differently than us, with whom I manage to conduct conversations with derekh eretz-polite and respectful.  Not with these young people.  Their responses to my attempts to speak to them seriously and respectfully remind me of the conversations I had with my little brothers when I was 10 or so, each of us trying to twist the meaning of the words of the other, or simply mimicking them back.

Nevertheless, I tried. I asked them what they knew about the Torah of Rebbe Nachman..  No response.  Did they know Rebbe Nachman’s “Prayer for Peace?” No response.  I tried quoting a few lines.  No reaction…  Were their actions reflective of Rebbe Nachman’s Torah of peace?  Well, you can guess what the response was…

So here is Rebbe Nachman’s Prayer for Peace in translation. Today it is found in many siddurim (prayerbooks), particularly non-Orthodox ones. There are several versions. Here are two of them:

Prayer for Peace

“Master of Peace, Divine Ruler, to whom peace belongs. Who makes Peace, and creates all things:

אדון השלום, מלך שהשלום שלו עושה שלום ובורא את הכל:

“May it be Your Will to put an end to war and bloodshed on earth, and to spread a great and wonderful peace over the whole world, ‘so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’ (Isaiah 2:4)

יהי רצון מלפניך, שתבטל מלחמות ושפיכות דמים מן העולם ותמשיך שלום גדול ונפלא בעולם ולא “ישא גוי אל גוי חרב ולא ילמדו עוד מלחמה“:

“Help us and save us all, and let us cling tightly to the virtue of peace. Let there be a truly great peace between every person and their fellow, and between husband and wife, and let there be no discord between any people even in their hearts.

עזרנו והושיענו כולנו שניזכה תמיד לאחוז במידת השלום, ויהיה שלום גדול באמת בין כל אדם לחברו, ובין איש לאשתו ולא יהיה שום מחלוקת אפילו בלב בין כל בני אדם:

“And may it be that all people love peace and pursue peace, always in truth and with wholeheartedness, without holding on to any disputes ever again which would divide us against each other.

ויהיה כל אדם אוהב שלום ורודף שלום תמיד באמת ובלב שלם, ולא נחזיק במחלוקת כלל לעולם ואפילו נגד החולקים עלינו:

“Let us never shame any person on earth, great or small. May it be granted unto us to fulfill Thy Commandment to, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ (Leviticus 19:18) with all our hearts and souls and bodies and possessions.

ולא נבייש שום אדם בעולם מקטן ועד גדול ונזכה לקיים באמת מצוות “ואהבת לרעך כמוך“, בכל לב וגוף ונפש וממון:

“And let it come to pass in our time as it is written, ‘And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down and none shall make you afraid. I will drive the wild beasts from the land, and neither shall the sword go through your land.’ (Leviticus 26:6)

ויקוים בנו מקרא שכתוב ונתתי שלום בארץ ושכבתם ואין מחריד והשבתי חיה רעה מן הארץ וחרב לא תעבור בארצכם:

“Hashem who is peace, bless us with peace!”

יי שלום, ברכנו בשלום.

Prayer for Peace (Attributed to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov)

May in be Your Will, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors, to put an end to war and bloodshed on earth, and to spread a great and wonderful peace over the whole world, so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

May all inhabitants of this planet come to recognize and know the ultimate truth: We did not come to this world for conflict and strife, nor for hatred, envy, mockery or bloodshed; We came to this world only to know You, may You be blessed for all eternity.

Therefore, have mercy on us, and fulfill for us what is written, “And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down and none shall make you afraid. I will drive the wild beasts from the land, and neither shall the sword go through your country.”*(Leviticus 26:6)

“And justice will well up like water, righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24).

“For the Land will be filled with knowledge (some translate: devotion to) of Adonai as water covers the sea.”( Isaiah 11:9).

May it be Your Will. And let us say: Amen.

The second version teaches us that if we truly know God, we would not engage in harming each other.

At one point I asked the youth yesterday why they were turning their holy souls into the souls of beasts (and that isn’t very fair to animals). If the youth yesterday, or any of those who dispossess, expel, discriminate, hate or deny basic living conditions to fellow human beings were truly students and hasidim of Rebbe Nachman, they would be seeking to elevate their souls, not sully and degrade them.

Jacob, and Esau, once bitter enemies, learn to know God in each other, and in the renewed bond between them.

With God’s Help, and serious effort on our part, we too can and must drive the wild beasts from our hearts.

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder and director of the Israeli human rights organization "Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice." Previously, he led "Rabbis For Human Rights" for 21 years. Rabbi Ascherman is a sought after lecturer, has received numerous prizes for his human rights work and has been featured in several documentary films, including the 2010 "Israel vs Israel." He and "Torat Tzedek" received the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Fund's Human Rights Prize fore 5779. Rabbi Ascherman is recognized as a role model for faith based human rights activism.
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