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Parashat Vayishlakh / פרשת וישלח

Crop of Meeting of Jacob and Esau by Francesco Hayez


Parashat Vayishlakh is the eighth weekly reading in the annual Torah reading cycle, and the eighth reading of Bereishit (“Genesis”). Vayishlakh (וַיִּשְׁלַח) is Hebrew for And He Sent and is the first word of the parashah, which begins with Ya’akov (Jacob) sending messengers to his brother Esav (Esau) ahead of his return to Kena’an (Canaan).

The parashah records Esav’s response to Ya’akov’s gesture of goodwill. Fearing his brother Esav, Ya’akov takes action to protect his family and also calls on HaShem for His protection, citing HaShem’s promises. Additionally, Ya’akov sends gifts ahead of him hoping to appease Esav.

After sending his wives, servants, and children across Ma’avar Yabok (the fjord of the Jabok), Ya’akov is left alone, and the parashah records a struggle between Ya’akov and a mysterious figure who renames Ya’akov Yisrael (Israel). The parashah continues the following day with a record of Ya’akov’s encounter with his brother Esav, how Ya’akov approached, Esav’s response, how they separated, and where Ya’akov came to dwell following.

Parashat Vayishlakh continues with the account of the defiling of Dinah, the daughter of Ya’akov, and how the House of Yisrael handled the matter. After Dinah is raped and humiliated, her rapist seeks to make amends by marrying her, with his father’s help. Ya’akov’s sons, however, the brothers of Dinah, respond with deceit and vengeance, and in an excessive use of force against the inhabitants of the city of Shkhem (Shechem), which the parashah records at length.

After this, HaShem appears to Ya’akov at Shkhem and instructs him to journey to Beit El (Beth El) to build an altar. The parashah records how HaShem mercifully delivered the House of Yisrael from the people of the cities of Kena’an, who would have otherwise retaliated for what happened at Skhem. Ya’akov follows HaShem’s instructions. The parashah records a death in the House of Yitzkhak (Isaac), the father of Ya’akov, before recording HaShem again appearing to Ya’akov. HaShem blesses Ya’akov and reaffirms His multi-faceted covenant with him, as well as his new name. The parashah records HaShem’s words and Ya’akov’s response.

Parashat Vayishlakh continues with a number of important events in House of Yisrael, including the death of Ya’akov’s beloved wife, Rakhel (Rachel), the treachery of his eldest son, Reuven (Reuben), and the death of his father Yitzkhak. The parashah records the age of Yitzkhak at the time of his death and who it was who buried him.

The parashah concludes with the generations of Esav; who he married and from where he married them, the children they bore to him, where they settled, the chiefs of Edom (Esav), the sons of Esav, the chiefs of Seir HaKhori (the Horite), as well as other history pertaining to Edom.

Torah Portion: Genesis 32:4 – 36:43

1st Aliyah: Genesis 32:4-13 (10 verses)
2nd Aliyah: Genesis 32:14-30 (17 verses)
3rd Aliyah: Genesis 32:31-33:5 (8 verses)
4th Aliyah: Genesis 33:6-20 (15 verses)
5th Aliyah: Genesis 34:1-35:11 (42 verses)
6th Aliyah: Genesis 35:12-36:19 (37 verses)
7th Aliyah: Genesis 36:20-43 (24 verses)
Maftir: Genesis 36:40-43 (4 verses)

Reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets):

Traditional Ashkenazi Haftarah: Hosea 12:13 – 14:10
Traditional Sephardic Haftarah: Hosea 11:7 – 12:12

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