Parshas Vayeitzei is an eventful story of how Yaakov met and married his wives, had eleven of his sons, and feuded with Lavan. All of these stories play big parts in the beginning foundations of the Jewish People. And sandwiching these events are the stories of how Yaakov left and returned to Eretz Yisrael.
The first story is well-known; Yaakov falls asleep one night and dreams of a ladder to the heavens with angels going up and down. Hashem appears and promises him that he will be protected throughout his journey. This took place right before Yaakov left Eretz Yisrael and Chazal explain that the angels on the ladder represented the Eretz Yisrael guard leaving him and the Chutz La’aretz angels taking over.
At the end of the parsha, a similar story occurs. Yaakov is heading towards the border of Eretz Yisrael when he is confronted by a group of visitors we have seen before. “וְיַֽעֲקֹ֖ב הָלַ֣ךְ לְדַרְכּ֑וֹ וַיִּפְגְּעוּ־ב֖וֹ מַלְאֲכֵ֥י אֱלֹקים” “And Yaakov went on his way, and angels of God met him” (Bereishis 32:2). Rashi explains that the reverse is now happening; as Yaakov crosses back into Eretz Yisrael, the angels who came with him to Lavan’s house now left and the Eretz Yisrael angels returned.
The Ramban takes issue with this explanation. At this point, Yaakov is not even close to crossing into Eretz Yisrael! We see in next week’s parsha, that Yaakov crosses the Yabok River (See 32:23), found to the southwest of Eretz Yisrael. Furthermore, when Yaakov reaches the city of Shechem (See 33:18), the Torah indicates that this was the first place in Eretz Yisrael that Yaakov reached upon entering. If this is true, how could the Eretz Yisrael angels have met him and taken over so early?
The Ramban instead takes a different approach. This meeting with the angels was not the changing of the guard that we see earlier. This meeting was in preparation for Yaakov’s imminent showdown with Esav. As Yaakov left Lavan’s house and headed back home, he knew he would eventually have to confront Esav. Now with a large family and immense wealth, he made an even larger target. These angels came to let him know that even with the army Esav had gathered, Yaakov still outnumbered them. With the heavenly entourage alongside him, and a guarantee of safety from Hashem, Yaakov had nothing to fear.
Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayeitzei
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