Montreal Kollel 2006
One of the most well known songs amongst those that live in Samaria and visitors to Kever Yosef (Joseph’s gravesite), is derived from the well known verse: “Veani netati lecha shechem echad al achicha…” – “And I have given you one portion over your brothers…” This verse constitutes part of the blessing Yaakov, while on his deathbed bestows upon Yosef. It is clear from the verse that Yaakov has bequeathed Yosef the city of Shechemas an additional portion above that which his brothers will receive.
Let’s examine however, the second part to this verse, “which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.” This statement by Yaakov is quite surprising. Was it indeed Yaakov who conquered the city of Shechemwith his sword and bow? Where do we see that he fought alongside Shimon and Levi?
Parashat Vayishlach relays the events of Dina’s kidnapping and violation by Shechem son of Hamor. Shimon and Levi, who are angered by this deed, propose that the men of the city circumcise themselves to enable the intermarriage between the women of Israeland the men of Shechem. As is well known the men of Shechem agree to circumcise themselves but on the third day following the procedure when they were at their weakest, Shimon and Levi level the city. Rashi points out that no advice was taken from their father Yaakov, which leads to his harsh rebuke in the ensuing verses, “You have troubled me, to discredit me among the inhabitants of the land…” Apparently, Yaakov is not at all pleased with the destruction of the city of Shechemand was not involved in any way with his sons’ battle.
Upon examining the text in this week’s portion, only five verses after Yaakov boasts about his conquests in Shechem by his own sword and bow, he attacks Shimon and Levi, “…stolen instruments are their weapons. Let my soul not enter their counsel…”
There seems to be juxtaposition in Yaakov’s words that need explanation.
Rashi tries to resolve the issue by quoting the following midrash. “When Shimon and Levi killed the people of Shechem, all those around him gathered together to engage them in battle and Yaakov girded himself with weapons of war to fight against them.” It appears from Rashi’s explanation that Yaakov really did go out to fight and thus we can easily understand Yaakov’s statements.
Interestingly, Onkelos has another view on what Yaakov’s intention was in his statement “with my sword and with my bow.” – Through prayer and request Yaakov made himself partner to his sons’ battle and therefore is able to bequeath the land to Yosef.
Let’s now examine the explanation of the Ramban. “The land will not be conquered but only through sword and bow… it was from Hashem to strengthen their hearts…”
We learn from here an astounding fact. The same Yaakov, who taught us about prayer and war at the time of his battles with Eisav his brother, performs the very same act when his sons go out to fight. The importance of prayer for the success of the war is so worthwhile that he attributes the war to himself by saying “I took” – the land conquered belongs to me! It was by merit of his prayer that Shechem was defeated by the hands of his sons who fought the physical battle.
These days, when our brethren in Israelare fighting for our holy land on a daily basis, even though we are not soldiers on the front line it is important for us to learn from Yaakov and to strengthen our prayers and requests; to pray for the success of our brothers and for our final redemption, may it come speedily.