August 23, 2019 |

My Weekly Drash (a mini D'var Torah) -- Vayishlach (3)

For those of us without rabbinical training, the workings of the classic rabbis can sometimes seem strange. For example at the beginning of Parshah Vayishlach Jacob sends messengers to soften up his brother Esau ahead of his return. He begins one such message, "I stayed with Laban and remained until now." (Gen. 32:5). To most of us that seems a simple declarative sentence explaining where Jacob has been all these years. Not to Rashi. The great - perhaps the greatest - medieval scholar noted that when one took the numeric value of the word "garti" ("I stayed") it came to 613 which just so happens to be the number of Torah commandments. So Rashi reads that as "I stayed with Laban but maintained my integrity; I was not corrupted by him." Whether Jacob was working out the numerology of his message, or whether Rashi actually believed him to be doing so is beside the point. The seeming coincidence allows Rashi - and us - to read between the lines and see that the younger Jacob who used trickery to get his father's blessing has come home a changed man.

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Daniel M. Kimmel

Joined: October 2, 2007

Daniel M. Kimmel is a Boston area film critic, lecturer and author. He does these weekly mini-lessons for the Mishkan Tefila Brotherhood's newsletter. You are free to use them for similar purposes.

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