Summary: VaYishlah is the 8th parasha in the Book of Genesis spanning chapters 32:4-36:43. It describes how Jacob prepared to meet his brother Esav after 20 years separation, the night-struggle he had wrestling with a mysterious figure and finally their tearful reconciliation as brothers.
After Jacob & Esav went their separate ways, the parasha reports the rape of Dinah and the subsequent sacking of Shekhem by Shimon, Levi and the other brothers. Jacob chastised his sons for their revenge killings and commanded his entire household to dispose of any idolatrous spoils taken from the town.
The family travelled to Beit El where among their entourage, his mother Rebecca’s nursemaid, Deborah, died. G-d again appeared to Jacob telling him he would be blessed with abundant offspring and in return, Jacob built an altar and a monument there to G-d.
Rachel died in childbirth bearing Binyamin. Not long after, Reuben defiled his father’s concubine, Bilhah. Jacob finally returned to Hebron to be with Isaac. And at age 180, Isaac died and was buried by his 2 sons.
The remainder of the parasha describes the lineage of Esav who had 3 wives and 5 children and who settled near Mt Seir. The heads of the Hori clan were listed. VaYishlah ends with the names of 8 kings who descended from Esav.
Comment: The story of VaYishlah shows the transformation of the third of our patriarchs from Jacob to Israel. Yaacob was his birth name which meant ‘heel’ or ‘crooked’. Yisrael became the name that meant ‘straight’ with G-d and man.
Despite beginning as someone who deceived others, after 20 years of deception under his father-in-law, Jacob had matured and was empathetic with Esav. Sincere tears of joy and relief were shed at their reunion. The Torah suggests the brothers somehow became resolved with each other – something that time & distance often allows.
But before the children of Jacob could become the nation Bnei Yisrael, they had to overcome the inherent challenges of being straight with each other. Children unconsciously absorb the behavioural traits and patterns of their parents.
Jacob’s challenge was in dealing honestly with his brother Esav. Not the favoured child in Isaac’s eyes, Jacob’s adaptive psychological approach was to manipulate by deceit. That his children chose the same method in dealing with Shekhem should be no surprise.
Jacob was incensed when Shimon & Levi avenged the honour of their sister Dinah. But, as children of Leah, the wife less favoured in Jacob’s eyes, they too were following a pattern set for them by their father.
As parents we have such a huge responsibility to be capable role models to our children. It often isn’t easy or convenient but we need to remember our actions will reverberate in their lives for decades if not generations to come.