By: Sammy Lurie (11th Grade)
This week’s Parsha is Parshat Vayishlach. In this portion, Yaakov prepares for a potential war against his brother Esav. The Parsha starts with Yaakov sending messengers to attempt to make peace with Esav as the Pasuk states: וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח יַעֲקֹ֤ב מַלְאָכִים֙ לְפָנָ֔יו אֶל־עֵשָׂ֖ו אָחִ֑יו אַ֥רְצָה שֵׂעִ֖יר שְׂדֵ֥ה אֱדֽוֹם“ ׃." The pasuk refers to the messengers as Malachim, which raises some questions because Malachim can refer to angels.
Rashi comments on the word Malachim saying that they were literal angels. An opposing opinion in the Midrash says these Malachim were actually human. If we say the Malachim were real angels, why did Yaakov need them instead of regular messengers? And if we say that the Malachim were human, why did the Torah call them angels?
To answer these questions, we first have to understand a concept brought by Rav Moshe Feinstein. When the average Jew witnesses a miracle, they are astonished and their faith in Hashem is strengthened. On the other hand, Tzaddikim whose faith in Hashem is already extremely strong views natural and supernatural phenomena the same. This is because they have the understanding that both are Hashem’s doing. Hashem will perform miracles for people on the higher level more frequently than the other type of person. This is simply because if Hashem performed miracles for the lower-level person often then it would become natural and lose its meaning as a miracle.
A story in the Gemara highlights this very idea. Once Rabbi Chaninah Ben Dosa’s daughter accidentally filled her candlesticks with vinegar instead of oil. Rabbi Chaninah assured her the vinegar would burn just like it is oil and it did. For him there was no difference between the vinegar burning and the oil burning- both are natural because they are caused directly by Hashem. For the same reason, Yaakov sending a human messenger and sending an angel was exactly the same. This is why the Torah uses this language which can be interpreted in both ways. We should aim to be like Yaakov and understand that all natural and supernatural things come from Hashem.