Vayishlach: Chapter 1

"And Jacob sent messengers"


Rabbi Yehuda begins with a discussion of the Good Inclination and the Evil Inclination, two angels that constantly abide by man. When man is virtuous, the Good Inclination gains dominion over the Evil Inclination, and the right side prevails over the left. Rabbi Elazar then speaks of the Shechinah and the legions of holy angels who protected David from the King of Gat, and Jacob when he was delivered from Laban. In the ensuing dialogue, the rabbis analyze when and why Jacob was "left alone" by the angels and how he managed to prevail over Esau's minister. Finally, Rabbi Shimon explains Jacob's actions in sending a band of angels to Esau in order to bring about a econciliation, in fulfillment of the verse, "Better is one lightly esteemed..."


When we know that a specific action is positive and in our best interests, another voice inside inevitably talks us out of it. When we know that a particular behavior or action is negative, something impels us to engage in it anyway, even though we don't really want to. These are the Good and Evil Inclinations at work. We must recognize these two urges as distinct voices battling for control over our behavior. The moment we recognize the Evil Inclination as our true enemy, we can begin to remove its influence over us. The spiritual forces arising from this section reveal this metaphysical truth, endowing us with the strength to resist and overcome our negative tendencies.