Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Parshat Vayishlach 5781
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha that Yaakov Avinu comes home to Eretz Yisrael after his ordeal with Lavan and his encounter with his brother Eisav. The Torah describes his homecoming by stating (Chapter 33, Pasuk 18), Vayavo Yaakov Shalem Ir Shechem. Rashi comments that he returned Shalem, whole and complete both physically and spiritually from his time in Chutz La’Aretz.

The end of the pasuk states Vayichan es Pnei Ha’Ir; He encamped at the entrance of the city. Chazal teach that these last few words of the pasuk teach us that Yaakov entered the city just as the sun was setting and Shabbos was coming in, Nichnas B’Dimdumei Chamah. And just as Shabbos was coming in, he established Eiruvei Techumin, borders for Shabbos. From here we see that Yaakov was unique among the Avos in that he kept Shabbos. Why was it precisely Yaakov Avinu the one of the Avos who kept Shabbos and why was it precisely with the mitzvah of Eiruv Techumim?

Rashi tells us at the beginning of last week’s parsha when Yaakov Avinu leaves home (Chapter 28, Pasuk 10), Vayeitzei Yaakov M’Be’er Sheva, Yetzias Tzadik min Hamakom Oseh Roshem, Panah Hodah Panah Zivah Panah Hadarah. When a Tzadik is in a place, he is the light and the glory of the place. And when he leaves, all the light and splendor leaves with him.   

When the pasuk tells us Vayichan es Pnei Ha’Ir, the Sfas Emes learns that the word Vayichan is teaching us that the splendor and light of Yaakov returned to Eretz Yisrael. And this light is the same light that upon creation we read (Chapter 1, Pasuk 4), Vayar Elokim es Ha’Ohr Ki Tov Vayvdel. Hashem saw that the light He created was not appropriate for the wicked and set it aside for the righteous. The Tzadik Yaakov Avinu was the keeper of the light.

Not only does the light dwell with unique individuals, i.e. the Tzadik, but the light is also released during unique times. And those times are Shabbos and Yom Tov. Just as when the Tzadik comes to town great glory and splendor appear with him, when Shabbos arrives, that same great glory and splendor arrives as well. And just as Hashem separated the light upon its creation, so too Yaakov Avinu arrived at the onset of Shabbos and separated and clearly defined the place of the light of Shabbos. This demarcation is called Eiruvei Techumin. The light of the Tzadik is given to him because he knows how to guard and protect that light.

The mitzvah of Shabbos is given to all of Clal Yisrael. As a result, part of our essential task in this world is to be Shomer Shabbos; to guard and protect that light and understand the distinction between that which is holy and that which is profane. This is why we end Shabbos by making Havdalah, the other end of Yaakov Avinu’s Eirvu Techumin. We leave Shabbos by clearly marking the distinction between Kodesh and Chol.

The light also resides in unique places, and that unique place is in Eretz Yisrael. This is why the light returned with Yaakov when he came back to Eretz Yisrael. While he was in Chutz La’Aretz his light was hidden. But now it returned with him upon his arrival. So that three things came together simultaneously; the Tzadik, Shabbos, and Eretz Yisrael. All of which brought great light and the need for clear distinctions and borders to protect that light. This also explains why the Torah is so careful in the end of sefer Bamidbar to give us the exact borders of Eretz Yisrael.

Yaakov tells his family members (Chapter 35, Pasuk 2), Ve’Hachlifu Simloseichem, change your clothes. The Gemara in Shabbos 113A derives from the pasuk in sefer Yeshayahu (Chapter 58, Pasuk 13) V’Karasa L’Shabbos Oneg… V’Chibadeto, that one should honor Shabbos by wearing special clothing. Similarly, Yaakov Avinu asked his family to prepare for arrival in Eretz Yisrael by wearing special “Eretz Yisrael clothes”.

The Gemara in Shabbos 118A teaches Kol Ha’Me’aneg es Ha’Shabbos Nosnin Lo Nachalah Bli Metzarim. All who keep Shabbos and have Oneg on Shabbos receive a portion without borders. And the Gemara explains that this is the portion of Yaakov Avinu, regarding whom the Torah states (Chapter 28, Pasuk 14), U’Faratza Yamah V’Kaidmah V’Tzafonah V’Negbah. Why is it that specifically Yaakov Avinu, who kept clear borders and boundaries of the light, the one who received a limitless portion?

The Sfas Emes explains the reason is that it is precisely at the root and the source of the light and holiness that its effect is without limits. We need to guard it at its source. But when we let it spread out, then it becomes weaker and limited. But when we guard the light and the Shabbos and keep it connected to its source, then it can spread and be with us without any limitations at all.

Good Shabbos

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