Weekly Cycle

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Korach in the Parasha, the Torah Portion of Vayishlach

The Torah portion of Vayishlach speaks of the dramatic encounter between Jacob and Esau. In their exchange, much has been written between the different approaches to life of the two. Esau says, "Yesh Li Rav," usually translated as "I have a lot," while Jacob states, "Yesh Li Kol," "I have everything [I need]." It brings to mind the expression from Pirkei Avot, "Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his portion." Much has also been written about what "Kol" means. In Kabbalah, Kol is explained as a reference to the sefirah (attribute) of Yesod, foundation. Jacob is now able to stand firm against his murderous brother Esau.
Esau's use of the word "Rav" is also quite fascinating. It can mean "much," but can also mean "master" or "superior." Esau is intrinsically stating, probably without acknowledging it consciously, that Jacob is his superior. This seems to be supported by Rashi's comment on this verse:
9. But Esau said, "I have plenty, my brother; let what you have remain yours."
ט. וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו יֶשׁ לִי רָב אָחִי יְהִי לְךָ אֲשֶׁר לָךְ:
let what you have remain yours: Here he acknowledged his (Jacob’s) right to the blessings (Gen. Rabbah 78:11).
יהי לך אשר לך: כאן הודה לו על הברכות:
The Hebrew translation of the whole verse could very well be: "But Esau said, "I have a superior - my brother. Let what is yours remain yours."
There are two other instances in which a similar expression is used. Moshe says to Korach and his fellow Levi rebels, "Rav Lecha Bnei Levi," this is [too] much for you sons of Levi. Later, when Moshe asks for 515 times to come to Israel, G-d also uses the same expression, "Rav Lecha," it is [too] much for you. Much has been written about the connection between these two statements as well. Both times, it may be understood that what is being said to both Moshe and the sons of Levi is that they have a superior, a Master. This also ties into one of the early themes of Pirkei Avot and of Rosh Hashanah: Ta'aseh Lecha Rav - make for yourself a Master. (see Book 1, Week 1)
We know that Esau did not do Teshuvah in his lifetime, but perhaps his potential for Teshuvah, and the spark of good in him can be found here is as well. In acknowledging his brother's superiority, and that the blessings his brother took from him, even if somewhat deceitfully, are nonetheless his to keep, Esau is getting closer to one day, one day acknowledging the ultimate truth: he too has One Master.

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