Thursday, February 3, 2011

Harnessing the Power of the Enemy

And Yaakov left Be'er Sheva and headed towards Charan....

We will understand this based on the verse "And Yehoshua weakened Amalek and his nation by the sword" [Shemos 17:13]. The only reason that Esav (from whom Amalek descended) has any power over the Jewish people is because he performed one mitzvah: kibbud av - honoring his father, Yitzchak. Esav honored his father by using his sword to hunt for him. This is why Yitzchak blessed Esav that he should "live by the sword" [Bereishis 27:40] - through the mitzvah of honoring his father that he performed using his sword, he merited some power in this world. This is why the verse says "al charbecha" - "by your sword" and not "b'charbecha" - "with your sword" - by way of your sword; because of what you did with it, you shall live.

When the Jewish people wish to weaken the strength of Esav, they need not use the power of all of the 613 mitzvos, since even in the one mitzvah from which Esav draws power, the Jewish people surpass him. The Torah teaches us that Yaakov honored his father more than Esav - the Midrash relates [Targum Yonasan 27:31] that Esav could not find game to hunt so he brought a dog instead and planned to feed that to his father. This is the meaning of "and Yehoshua weakened Amalek and his nation by the sword" - even by the power of the sword that symbolizes Esav's one mitzvah of honoring his father, Yehoshua (representing the Jewish people) weakened and surpassed Amalek.

This then is the meaning of "and Yaakov left Be'er Sheva" - literally "the well of the seven". It is known that Be'er Sheva alludes to the high spiritual levels that Yaakov had achieved, since he rectified all the seven character traits, as explained in the holy writings.

The seven traits are the seven lower sefirot: Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut - translated as Kindness, Strength, Beauty, Victory, Splendor, Foundation and Kingship. Perhaps the Noam Elimelech is teaching us that Yaakov was able to use all of these traits to serve the Almighty.

When Yaakov faced both Esav his brother and Lavan his uncle, he didn't need to use all his lofty spiritual powers against them, rather he came with the power of "be'er sheva" - the well, or foundation, of the other seven character traits that he had rectified. "And he went to Charan" implies that he used their own power against them. Thus it says: "And he went to Charan" - with this power he faced them and defeated them. This is easy to understand.

Source: "Mipeninei Noam Elimelech"  Translated by Tal Moshe Zwecker

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