Kenneth Cohen

Ultimate Protection

Yakov Avinu gave a total of 550 different animals to his brother, Eisav. This corresponds to the 550 animals offered in the course of the year, for the Mussaf sacrifice.

The gift included goats and camels, as well as bulls and cows. And there were also rams, male and female, as part of the effort to placate his brother.

What is strange about the Torah’s accounting of this peace offering, are the words spoken directly to Eisav.

Yakov makes a point of telling his servants to tell his brother that he lived with Lavan, and kept the Mitzvot. And he possessed שור וחמור, oxen and donkeys, as well as other assets. The question of the commentators is why did he specifically mention the שור וחמור, when he ultimately gave him many other animals.

The answer is found in the Talmud in Baba Kama, that explains that Yakov was speaking in code to Eisav. The donkeys was a reference to the tribe of Yissaschar, and the oxen referred to Yosef.

These two brothers represented the ultimate strength of Israel. Yosef was the one who gave physical sustenance to the Jewish people. Yissachar was the brother who devoted his life to Torah. So, in essence, Yakov was telling Eisav that he has the ultimate protection, and he could not harm him. Israel is under Hashem’s eternal protection, as hinted to, by his possession of the שור, Yosef, and the חמור, Yissaschar.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at