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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Vayishlah: Camp of Angels

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

"So the present passed before him, and himself lodged that night in the camp. And he rose that night, and took his two wives, his two handmaids, and his eleven children and passed the ford Yaboq."

The verses speak of how Yaaqob review the gift he had assembled for his brother Esav. The first verse ends with a description that Yaaqob slept that night in the camp. The second verse speaks of how Yaaqob woke in the middle in the night to pass over the stream into Israel.

Rav Moshe Alshech (student of Maran) writes a wonderful explanation to these verses.

First, the beginning of the first verse does not connect with its end. What does the gift that Yaaqob prepared have to do with where Yaaqob slept the night before he met Esav?

Second, what is the fact that Yaaqob slept in the camp coming to teach us?

Third, why did Yaaqob hastily wake up in the middle of the night, and choose that time to pass his whole camp into Israel?

Yaaqob, as is the case with other righteous people, did not place overemphasis on preparing for his battle with Esav in a physical manner. Even though he was examining the physical gift he prepared for Esav, he slept that night in the "camp," the camp of angels. As we saw in the end of the previous parasha, there was a second camp traveling with Yaaqob, which consisted of angels. ("And when Yaaqob saw them, he said, this is God's camp, and he called the name of that place Mahanaim." 32:2)

While Yaaqob was resting in this safe haven, he suddenly has the urge to cross the stream in the middle of the night. Yaaqob realized that he was heading towards Israel and did not want to delay even in the slightest manner. Yaaqob saw himself humbly, and said that it is unfair to cause the angels and his own camp to be delayed entry into Israel because of his own fatigue. Therefore, Yaaqob woke and moved all that was his, including the camp of angels.

With this understanding, we can understand why the angel of Esav was able to attack Yaaqob when Yaaqob returned to the original camp to retrieve what he forgot. The encampment of angels was no longer with Yaaqob, for getting the angels into Israel immediately was the very reason why Yaaqob was up that night.

Hashem wanted Yaaqob to realize that he will be able to stand alone, and need not rely on the angels or gifts to help defeat Esav. Hashem wanted Yaaqob to understand that he himself was strong enough to succeed with Hashem's help alone.

Indeed, the message we can take from this is powerful. Many times people travel to Rabbis to get blessings, or believe in all different types of superstitions, trying to get the "inside track" to Hashem. We do not realize that the most basic elementary communication, our own tefilah, our power, can be stronger than anything anyone else can say to Hashem on our behalf. Just as Hashem wanted to show Yaaqob that he could succeed with this trust in Hashem and nothing else, we can strive to realize that very concept and strengthen our Tefilah to Hashem.
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