Vayishlach 5763

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Jake Altholz, 2010-11 Hagalil USY Religion/Education Vice President, 5771

“Professor, I was in the library the other night, in the Restricted section, and I came across something rather odd, about a bit of rare magic, and I thought perhaps you could illuminate me. It’s called, as I understand it … a Horcrux.”

These words have been spoken identically by perhaps two of the greatest wizards of all time. To the first of these two wizards, the professor, Professor Slughorn issues this response.

“A horcrux is an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul. One splits one’s soul and hides part of it in an object. By doing so, you are protected should you be attacked and your body destroyed.”

In this week’s parsha, Vayishlach, our father, Yaakov, creates several horcruxes in preparation for his encounter with his brother and sworn enemy, Esav. He sends malachim to deal with Eisav before he will actually meet with him face to face. The word malachim has two different meanings. One is that it means agents, messengers, human beings who were sent on a particular mission to do Yaakov’s bidding. The other meaning is that the word malachim signifies angels, supernatural messengers of God who were sent to Yaakov to help him in his fateful encounter with his brother.

Rashi speaks of both possible interpretations in his commentary. When Rashi does so, he is teaching us that both interpretations are correct at differing levels of understanding the verse involved. The message here is that the encounter with Esav, in order to be successful from Yaakov’s vantage point and situation, has to have both human and supernatural help.

Yaakov has backup plans, or horcruxes, so that if one should fail, he will have a means to survive. He has created several lifelines through which his goal of survival can be attained, even if his encounter with his brother does not go well. Yaakov even went to the extent to divide his family into camps to ensure the survival of his family.

“He divided the people accompanying him into two camps, along with the sheep, cattle and camels. He said, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one camp, at least the other camp will survive.'” (Bereishit 32:8-9)

Just like Yaakov, we must place our souls in both humans, and God. If we do, we can never be harmed. Part of us will live on no matter what. So before I finish, I implore you, if you have not yet done so, put your soul into USY, and help others do the same. Make USY a horcrux through which your spirit will live on. If you do, your friends, and the people you impact during your time here, will never forget you.

To the second great wizard that asked him, Professor Horace Slughorn responded, “there can be no light without the dark. I myself strive for the light.”

So USY, strive for the light. Be like Jacob and make horcruxes to serve the forces of good. Gather your friends and things you love, put your soul into them, and they will always protect you. Just like Harry was protected by Lily Potter’s love, we are all protected by those around us and we together will always live in the light.