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Parshat Vayishlach - Questions for Self Study

Questions for the Shabbat Table
Questions for Shiur Preparation - "Yaakov's Name Change to Yisrael"
Questions for Shiur Preparation - "What is Yaakov Doing in Shechem?"
Questions on Parshanut

Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
1. While reviewing each of the events in Chumash concerning Yaakov Avinu, note which of these events involves some sort of 'trickery.' Can you discern a pattern?
In each of these events, can the 'trickery' be justified?
In your opinion, is Yaakov Avinu later 'punished' for this 'trickery?' If so, when and how? [Does this necessarily imply that Yaakov was 'wrong' in his actions? Explain your answer!]

2. In his struggle with the "mal'ach," does Yaakov use trickery?
Relate this to your answer to the above question.
Relate this as well the outcome of that event, i.e. Yaakov's name change to Yisrael!

3. In your opinion, when Esav first left to meet Yaakov (see 32:6), was his original intention to fight against Yaakov, or did he just want to greet him? In your answer, relate to 33:1-17, especially 33:4.
Relate also to 27:41-45 (and 31:41)!

4. In your opinion, was it proper for Yaakov to bow down seven times in front of Esav? Was he simply trying to appease Esav, or is this an attempt to prove something more significant? Relate to 27:28-29!
[See also Ramban on 32:4.]

5. In Yaakov's prayer that God save him from Esav (32:9-12), Yaakov recalls several earlier promises that God had made.
Try to find the 'sources' in Chumash for 32:9 and 32:12.
Can you explain why Yaakov chooses specifically these promises in his prayer? [Be sure to relate to 22:15-18.]

Part II - Questions for Preparation

For weekly shiur #1 - "Yaakov's Name Change to Yisrael"
[It is helpful for shiur preparation if you first answer questions 3-5 above.]
1. Explain Yaakov's strategy in his confrontation with Esav.
In your opinion, how does this confrontation with the "mal'ach" (see 32:24-31) relate to his preparations?

2. In what manner is Yaakov's name change to Yisrael (see 32:28) very different than Avram's name change to Avraham?
Why do you think that Yaakov continues to be called Yaakov, even after this name change?
In your opinion, what does each name represent?

3. Review 35:9-16. Here we find that Yaakov's name is changed once again to Yisrael. Does this 'contradict' 32:27-29? Or, is this simply a repetition; or possibly a confirmation; or maybe an addition? Explain. [How long after 32:27-29 does 35:9-15 take place?]
In your answer, relate to 28:3-4 as well!! [i.e. who gives what blessing, and towards what purpose?]
After this struggle, how does Yaakov reach his conclusion that "he has seen Elokim face to face" (32:30)?
Relate this and 28:3 to why Yaakov demands a blessing in 32:26.
Relate this to "l'risht'cha et eretz m'gurecha" in 28:4 and Yaakov's name change after this event to Yisrael.

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

For weekly shiur #2 - "What is Yaakov Doing in Shechem?"
1. Based on Yaakov's neder (see 28:18-22), what do you expect Yaakov to do immediately upon his return to Eretz Canaan?
Does he do this? If so, when, and why then?
If not, why doesn't he fulfill that neder?

2. Trace the chronological order of all of the events which take place in Parshat Va'yishlach. [Make special note of its division into parshiot.] Is there any section which seems problematic?
Based on 31:41, 29:20-32, and 31:23, approximately how old are Yaakov's children upon his return to Eretz Canaan?
How old is Dena (maximum)? How old are Levi and Shimon?
Now, based on chapter 34, how old do Dena, Shimon and Levi seem to be in this event at Shechem?
Based on the above, how many years (most probably) after Yaakov's arrival in Shechem did the 'story of Dena and Shechem' take place?
Do you think that until that time he had never gone to visit his father or fulfill his "neder" at Bet-el?
If he had not, can you explain why?

3. Read 35:1-8 carefully. What is the connection between this event and the story of 'Dena and Shechem?' Note carefully why Yaakov is instructed to go to Bet-El, for what purpose, and based on what precedent. What does Yaakov build there? Why? Does he fulfill his neder at this time?
If so, based on what pasuk?
If not, explain why he didn't.

4. Now read 35:9-22 carefully. Did this take place immediately afterward (i.e. after 35:1-8), at the same time, or much earlier?
Explain your answer. Relate to the textual parallel between 35:9 and 33:18 - "b'vo'oh m'Padan Aram..."
If this event indeed did take place earlier, what problems raised above would be solved?
If this did take place earlier, can you explain why this parshia is only recorded at this time? Relate to the strange nature of 35:22 and its connection to 35:23.

5. Note that 36:1 begins a new unit of "toladot" [Toldot Esav].
Where did the last unit of "toldot" begin? [See 25:19.]
Where does it end? [Relate to 35:23-29.]
How is the conclusion of this unit of "toldot" different than the conclusions of the earlier units of "toldot" in Sefer Breishit [i.e. how many sons are 'chosen' and who is 'rejected']?
Explain why this observation is significant to the overall theme of Sefer Breishit (of "bechira")?
Why may we have thought otherwise (i.e. that not all of Yaakov's children would be chosen)?

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Part III - Parshanut
1. Read 33:18 - i.e. "va'yavo Yaakov shalem ir Shechem..."
In your opinion is 'shalem' the name of city or does it describe how Yaakov arrived? [Relate to both 14:18 and 28:21!]
If Shalem is the name of a city, then what is Shechem the name of?
If shalem implies that he 'arrived safely,' would this be proper Hebrew? [How should this sentence read?] Based on the context of this pasuk, in your opinion which pirush makes the most sense?
Now, first see Rashi and Ibn Ezra. In your opinion, which pirush is "pshat" and which pirush is "drash?"
Next, see Ramban, who quotes Rashi and Ibn Ezra and argues. In what general manner is his pirush similar to Rashi. Why do you think Ramban argues with Rashi and Ibn Ezra? Is Ramban's pirush 'closer' to "pshat"?
Now, see Seforno. How is his pirush different that all the above? In your opinion, is his pirush closer to pshat?
Next, see Rashbam! How is his pirush totally different? Why is Rashbam so adamant that his pirush is the ony 'real' pshat? [Read him inside.] Do you agree?
Finally see Chizkuni. Does he agree totally with Rashbam? What other problem does Chizkuni deal with? [Note how he proves that this cannot be the same city of Shalem as in 14:18!]

2. In your opinion, why did Esav originally move from Eretz Canaan to Har Seir? [See 32:3, 33:14-17]
Now, see 36:5-9!! [Compare also with 13:5-15!]
Now, see Rashi, Rashbam, Ramban, Seforno, Radak and Chizkuni!
How does each "parshan" solve this problem.
According to each, when did 36:6-8 take place?
Be sure to see Ramban inside. [It is a classic example of his magnificent approach to parshanut.]