Parshas Vayishlach: Change of Pace

by Rabbi Mordechai Shifman

"My lord knows the children are fragile" (33:13)

After the climactic confrontation with Eisav, the Torah concludes with Yaakov declining Eisav's invitation to join forces and travel together to Seir. Yaakov excuses himself by stating that maintaining the pace of Eisav and his men would have devastating effects upon the young children. The Torah then teaches that Yaakov built houses for his family and "Sukkos"-"huts" for his animals. The Torah only records information that has a direct impact upon the Jewish People and is instructional. What is the importance of recording Yaakov's refusal to travel with Eisav? Why does the Torah segue from Yaakov's reasoning for not traveling with Eisav to the accommodations he builds for his family and his animals?

I often meet with parents who are reluctant to make the commitment to send their children to a Torah day school. The huge financial investment required to make this commitment is a major impediment. Even more challenging for many parents is the change in lifestyle they know they will have to make when they decide to give their child a Torah education. The knowledge that they will be expected to role model behaviors and create the appropriate atmosphere at home to effectively educate their child, is probably the number one reason that most parents will resist making the most important decision of their lives.

When I was a teenager growing up in South Africa I recall listening to Bishop Desmond Tutu reflecting upon the "white" minority community that was leading the country during the apartheid years. He commented that it was absurd that we would leave our children under the supervision of the "black" nanny but lock up the sugar when we left the house.

The Torah records Yaakov's response to emphasize that although it might have been financially and politically beneficial for Yaakov to join Eisav, Yaakov understands that trying to keep up with Eisav's pace and the influences of his lifestyle would be deleterious to the wellbeing of his children. Nothing can be more important than the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of our children. The Torah punctuates this message by emphasizing that Yaakov housed his family in permanent structures while he kept his financial assets in temporary ones. The impact of our wealth is temporary while the impact we can have upon our children is eternal.

Rabbi Mordechai Shifman.

Parsha Vayishlach: lectures on Youtube.

What Does Your Money Mean To You by Rabbi Mordechai Shifman