In this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Vayishlach, Yaakov returns to Israel after 20 years in Charan. He sends messengers to Esav, hoping to make peace with him, but they come back and report that Esav is on his way with an army of 400 men. Yaakov prepares for war with Esav by splitting his family into two camps (so if one is attacked, the other can be saved), praying to Hashem, and sending Esav a large gift of hundreds of sheep and cattle. That night, Yaakov brings his family and belongings over the river safely. He returns to the other side of the river where he fights with Esav’s angel the whole night. Yaakov is injured in his hip and the angel tells him his name will be changed to “Yisrael” which means “he who prevails over the divine.” For this reason, we are told in the parsha not to eat the sciatic nerve of kosher animals.
Yaakov and Esav meet, hug, kiss and cry, but go separate ways. There are some opinions that Esav was sincere in his emotion when he embraced Yaakov. The Midrash tells us that Esav tried to bite Yaakov’s neck but that his neck turned to stone, stopping Esav from being able to hurt him. Yaakov purchases a plot of land near Shechem and builds an altar for Hashem. Yaakov’s daughter, Deena, went into the city of Shechem where she was taken by the prince (also named Shechem) and held hostage. Deena’s brothers, Shimon and Levi rescue their sister and take revenge by killing all of the men in Shechem after instructing them to circumcise themselves. Yaakov is upset by their actions, worrying about possible attacks from the people of Canaan. Yaakov travels on with his family unharmed because the fear of Hashem is placed in the hearts of the Canaanites. When Yaakov arrived in Bet-El, Hashem appears to him and changes his name to Yisrael.
Yaakov and his family continue to journey toward Hevron. Rachel dies while giving birth to her second son, Binyamin, and is buried in a roadside grave near Bet Lechem. We are told that when exiled, the Jewish people will pass by Rachel’s Tomb and that she will cry for her children. She is comforted by G-d who tells her to dry her tears because her children will return to their borders. Yaakov eventually arrives in Hebron, to his father Yitzchak, who later dies at age of 180. He is buried next to Rivka (who died while Yaakov was in Charan) and his parents Avraham and Sarah in Maarat HaMachpela. The parsha concludes with a detailed account of Esav’s wives, children and grandchildren.
Many of the same symbols that have been used in the past few weeks could be used again this week, although with different explanations of how they relate to the parsha. I will begin with some new ones. Twizzler Pull and Peel candies could symbolize Yaakov’s splitting of the camp in anticipation of Esav’s arrival. Cry babies symbolize the crying of Esav and Yaakov when they met and Binyamin who is born in this week’s Parsha. Cry babies could also symbolize Rachel, who cries for her children from her roadside grave. Heart candies symbolize the fear of G-d in the hearts of the Canaanites that allowed Yaakov’s family to travel safely and the opinion that Yaakov and Esav displayed true brotherly love when they met after 20 years. Candy lips symbolize Yaakov’s prayers when Esav was approaching and the kiss of Esav and Yaakov when they met. Jaw Breakers symbolize the midrash of Yaakov’s neck becoming hard when Esav tried to bite him. The white gum drops covered in candy sprinkles symbolize the sheep that Yaakov sent to Esav as a gift and the angel that fought with Yaakov. Animal crackers symbolize the commandment not to eat the sciatic nerve of animals after this fight. The blue and white nonpareils symbolize Yaakov’s return to the Land of Israel, the change of his name to Yisrael, and the birth of the last of the 12 tribes, Binyamin. Last but not least, my childrens’ favorite Bubble Monsters symbolize the 400 men coming with Esav toward Yaakov. They could also symbolize the split of Yaakov’s camp in preparation for Esav as well.
What other ideas do you have? Please share them in the comment section below!