One of the most famous confrontations in history has an interesting “footnote”. We are informed by the Midrash that the battle between the angel of Eisav and Yaakov was so intense that the “dust” it raised reached the Kisei Ha-Kavod., and then we are told wondrously that all the successes of Yaakov Avinu, in business ventures and in battle (challenge) as well as the success of all of his descendants throughout the ages comes in the merit of this “dust of contention”. (Shir Hashirim Raba: 3:6:2)
These puzzling and profound statements warrant further attention but before we look into the spiritual molecular structure of this “dust,” we will add one more dimension and that is the element of time. Our holy Zohar (Vayikra 100b) implies that our tikun of that battle takes place on the evening of Yom Kippur.It is also well known in our holy Sarfim that in every interaction there are always three components of: person (nefesh), place (makom) and time (zman). Yaakov Aveinu and Eisav represent the two diametrically opposed aspects of nefesh – moral extremes of good and bad. The gid hanasheh corresponds to mokom – place since it is the mechanism which allows us to position ourselves in the physical and moral planes. [In the Tikuni Zohar it is written that the gid hanasha corresponds to media of tzadik which corresponds to the attribute of yesod – (tikun 18 duf 32b)]. The third component is Yom Kippur which is separate and apart from the rest of the calendar year [that Rashi brings from one pashot in the Tana devay Eliahu – Raba – perek alef on Tehillim (139 pusack 16) indicating that Yom Kippur is a uniquely sanctified day. [also see the Sefer Likutey Moharan – simon 179].
To the above we could ask a few obvious questions. Are all bracas for parnosa and success in overcoming challenges pre-ordained “gifts” than we do nothing to deserve them? Also what is the significance that this “soul battle” took place specifically on evening of Yom Kippur? Also what is the deeper meaning of this “dust” that guarantees these blessings of parnoasa and success throughout the generations?
We begin our analysis with the understanding that every human being is a composite of soul and body, intellect and emotions, the spiritual and the physical. When we make choices in our everyday activities – those choices can either align us with Hashem’s purpose for us or send us floundering in the opposite direction. It is through seeing and living life through “soul perspective”, which is “cosmic view” of the world, that allows us to traverse safely the occasional bumpy “terrain” of life’s challenges.
As is well known, Esau, who came with four hundred men to confront Ya’akov, symbolizes the yetzer hora’s efforts to try to upset this synergistic balance. That night Yaakov returned over the Yabuk to collect – pachim ketanim – small vessels and had a dramatic encounter with the angel of Esau. Near the end of the battle, Yaakov’s gid hanasheh, the cord/sinew that coordinates balance and movement and allows us to effect a change in physical position, was dislocated. Perhaps we can say that the gid hanasha not only represents the pivotal point for movement but also symbolizes the moral direction we choose.
Interestingly, the exact size army that Esau came with is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for straw (KaSh) spelled – Kuf Shin. The nature of straw is that each strand itself is easily broken, but when many strands of straw are bound together they become strong and resilient. So to in life, each individual small incident, like a piece of straw, can be seen as relatively insignificant and be easily torn (discarded), however if one allows themselves to “bundle up issues” until the some total of them looks and feels as strong as the army of Esav then even these minor but now bundled confrontations within daily life can seen and felt as overwhelming.
From this insight perhaps we can now add an additional reason why our Sages have told us not to bundle mitzvos together to teach us that also individual challenges throughout our daily lives should also never be bundled together, but each incident should be dealt with appropriately unto itself and the “emotional chaff” immediately discarded. Thus if someone at various times does something to annoy us, we should deal with each challenge with a fresh open-minded objective solution oriented perspective and not allow any bundling of past aggravations and annoyances into the picture. Another example of bundling can be for example multiple annoying issues besiege a person like an emergency arises to take someone to the hospital but the car in front is moving too slowly or the secretary at the registration desk is rude, or the waiting time to be seen seems forever. The strategy in order to maintain one’s emotional equilibrium and equanimity is to always keep separate each contentious issue (piece of kash) and thereby much more easily diffuse the intensity of that days tests of character.
The conflict between Yaakov and Eisav symbolizes the quintessential battle between selflessness and selfishness. The Zohar in Parshas Toldos informs us that everything that Yaakov Avinu did was for the sake of Heaven (l’Sham Shamayim). The Midrash tells us that Yaakov is the symbol of the Yetzer Tov while Esau corresponds to the Yetzer Hora. At the end of the titanic struggle that lasted until the break of dawn, Yaakov Avinu was able to triumphant over the angel of Esau. Our forefather Yaakov, like his predecessors Avraham and Yitzchak, was able to successfully realign his spiritual genetic propensities thus enabling us to be the perpetual beneficiaries of this treasury of moral refinement.
The avoda of Erev Yom Kippur also plays an important part in this transformation because this day is the “entranceway” that lies between the material and the spiritual realms. On Erev Yom Kippur we are asked to live in seemingly disparate realms. We spend the day examining our actions and our motives in an effort to do sincere teshuvah and immerse in the waters of purification (the holy mikva) and yet are commanded to eat more than usual throughout the day with culminating with a full seuda. By fulling this mitzvah of eating well the Sages have told us that is it thereby considered as if we had fasted two days. This perhaps can be understood to mean that Erev Yom Kippu through, ironically, eating becomes sanctified like fasting on Yom Kippur itself. That being said we can now understand better that what our Sages have told us to be exceedingly careful each Erev Shabbos and Erev Yom Tov because naturally the obligations of preparation and emotional height is far greater than the rest of the year. So also we can therefore surmise is Erev Yom Kippur which is referred to as Shabbos Shabboston. Therefore true success in making ourselves a vessel to receive holiness and blessings that come on the holidays is to not buddle issues which could lead to confrontations and instead stand up to each challenge and deal with it only at its core root as Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov instead of battling four hundred united (bundled) warriers he battled with the ONE root of their existence (the angel of Esav) and thereby overcame (annulled) the potential confrontation of all of them. By radiating an arua of respect and concern for others, regardless of which incidents arise, then we can be assured to have made ourselves a fitting vessel (cle) to receive the blessings that Yaacov merited for parnosa and success.
On Yom Kippur we are compared to malakim because we are not limited to the realm of this mundane world. It is a time and opportunity to reach new levels of closeness to G-d through the power of prayer. The eve of Yom Kippur can bring with it a shift in consciousness from the earthly to the spiritual realm, with the “break of dawn” perhaps symbolizing the new light of day which has the power to shine its beneficence throughout all the rest of the year.
May we all merit to transform each challenging situation from the “dust of potential confrontation” into the “gold dust of actualized conciliation” thereby meriting to bring closer the final redemption (geula) – may it be soon in our days.
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