ט״ז בְּכִסְלֵו תש״פ פרשת וישלח
From the Desk of
As Esav was preparing an ambush, Yaakov’s messengers came back and informed him that Esav had all his men lined up to attack. Yaakov davened and Hashem sent out a vision to Esav of two thousand men riding on horses armed with all sorts of weapons. This army was divided into four groups lead by four leaders. One by one these groups terrified Esav as they marched towards him loudly, armed with a mass of weaponry. Esav told each group as they passed that he is Yaakov’s brother and they left him alone. Only after the fourth group did Esav let his guard down and Yaakov began to appease him with his herds and riches. Only thing is, that famous midrash was just a prep for the real action that unfolds in Vayishlach with the ongoing theme that the success of the avos in warfare is solely based on their connection to Hashem.
It all starts with Shechem and his abduction of Dina. Hidekem, who was Shechem’s grandfather, opposed the idea of giving the whole city a bris; so he with his six brothers did not get one. Eight boys were hidden from getting a bris and as Shechem sought them out, Hidekem and his brothers jumped at them with their swords drawn ready to kill them. They gave mussar saying that they strayed off the derech and should never have gotten the bris, bringing Shechem and the whole city to be chozer betshuvah. After realizing their mistake the whole city was ready to wage war on Yaakov; as soon as Yaakov and his sons heard this they were filled with wrath. Eighteen other men who hid themselves suddenly came out to fight Shimon and Levi but Shimon and Levi killed all of them. They advanced and killed the whole city by the edge of the sword except two men who hid in the slime pits of the city.
Yaakov was upset and they defended their actions saying that not only was Dina violated but Shechem violated mitzvas bnei Noach and they deserved the death penalty. If nobody was going to stand up for what was right then they would.
Now, the two men who were hiding ran to the neighboring city of Tapuah to tell them what happened. Jashub, the king, verified with messengers that nothing was left in Shechem except for a few crying women. Jashub was ready to wage war against B”y and he sought counsel by his men. They said, “No way, if two of them are strong enough to wipe out a city then we can’t take them on. We’ll need to assemble an army with the surrounding cities.” The nearby seven kings gathered ten thousand soldiers ready to fight. Again, Yaakov rebuked Shimon and Levi for setting them up for extermination. Yehudah got up and said, “They did what they did because they had to. Shechem violated the law that Hashem gave to Noach and his children. Someone had to stand up for what was right! Don’t worry, Hashem will deliver them into our hands just like he delivered Shechem.”
Yehuda had one of his scouts look at what they were up against. He came back saying, “The army is huge, as many men as sand at the seashore.” Yehuda said, “Everyone, gear up! We’re going out to war, do not fear. Hashem will be with us!” Everyone, including Yaakov and his eleven sons and all their servants totaling one hundred and twelve men geared up with all sorts of weapons, large and small. They sent a message to Yitzchack to daven for them, which he did. Hashem accepted his prayer and put great fear and terror into all the advisers of the kings. They talked the kings out of war saying that they are the people of Avraham and they were going to lose. The entire army backed out and went home. B”y went veiter and settled elsewhere.
Here’s where it gets insane. Years later, B”y came back to the outskirts of the city of Shechem because they found a nice fat pasture for their cattle. Shechem was rebuilt and they heard that B”y were back and they said, “Not this time!” The Kings of Canaan, Tapuah, Gaash, Shiloh, Hazar, Sarton, Beth-horan and Othnaimah all joined in to wage a major war against B”y.
Jashub sent a letter to Yaakov saying, “You’re done! We wanted this for a long time. You came back to do what you did again and we’re not taking it! Meet us in the plains for war.” Yaakov’s sons heard this and were enraged. Again, everyone including Yaakov geared up for war ready to fight. Yaakov davened to Hashem who accepted his prayer.
Hashem then made a mighty noise of chariots, horses and war cries as the one hundred and two men of B”y’s army came. Yehuda was ready to give up his life and ran out against Jashub.
Jashub was a heroic man covered from head to foot with iron and copper. He rode on a powerful horse and was able to shoot arrows with both his hands forwards and backwards while on the horse. He never missed his targets. As Yehudah approached Hashem bound Jashub’s hands and made him shoot his own men. Within thirty cubits of approach Yehudah took a large stone from the ground weighing sixty shekels (2,340 lbs) and struck Jashub in the head causing him to fall to the ground and his shield to fly off by fifteen cubits in front of the second camp of their army. When they saw this they were all filled with fear but still gathered around Yehudah to intimidate him. Yehuda took out his sword and slayed forty two men and the rest retreated. When Jashub got up he saw nobody stood by him and he decided to fight Yehudah himself. They struck shield to shield and Jashub tried to use his spear to strike Yehudah in the head but Yehuda blocked the attack which split his shield. Then Yehuda used his sword to cut off both of Jashub’s feet causing him to fall to the ground and drop his spear. Yehudah picked up the spear and cut off his head throwing it next to his feet. After B”y saw this they all pursued the other kings killing fifteen thousand men like pumpkins and the rest ran for their lives. While Yehudah was stripping Jashub’s armor Jashub’s princes came to fight him. Yehudah took a rock and killed one of them and the rest fled who were overtaken by B”y.
Elon, king of Gaash ran at Levi with fourteen of his princes from behind. Levi attacked with twelve of his servants by the sword. Ihuri, king of Shiloh, helped Elon but Yaakov shot an arrow and killed him. After Ihuri died the other four kings retreated. B”y persued them all the way to the city of Hazar killing four thousand men while Yaakov killed each king with his bow and arrow. They continued battling at the gates of Hazar and three soldiers from Yaakov’s army were killed which grieved Yaakov and his wrath burned within him against the Amoraim. The remaining army became very afraid and broke in the gates of the city to retreat. B”y followed them in but four very powerful men from within the city skilled in warfare posted themselves at the gates against them, swords and spears drawn. They were doing well defending the city but Naftali ran between them and killed two with his sword cutting off their heads with one strike. The other two ran away after seeing this but they were overtaken and killed.
B”y went into the gates but there was another wall around the inner city. They couldn’t find the gate so Yehudah jumped on the wall along with Shimon and Levi then they jumped down into the city. As they were killing everyone in the city, the inhabitants let out a great cry so Dan and Naftali jumped on the wall to see what was happening. They saw the people begging for their lives but they were all killed. The gates were opened from inside and all the spoils were taken.
The next day, B”y pursued the city of Sarton since they were planning of avenging the death of their king. The city was high up and fortified with a huge rampart fifty cubits by forty cubits. The only way to get in was to take a road all the way around the city and enter from behind. Four hundred people from the city removed the bridge from the road and went up on the ramparts; they saw B”y trying to find a way in and they taunted and cursed them. B”y were provoked and they jumped over the rampart with great strength landing in the city. They tried to break the iron gates from inside but the people on the ramparts pelted them with stones and arrows. Yaakov’s sons each took a different side of the city, jumping over the rampart into it, conquering the city by the sword. Two men escaped into a tower and Yehuda destroyed the tower and it fell down killing the two men. There was another huge tower reaching the heavens and B”y went to it finding three hundred men, women and children within. They started wiping out those men while the rest retreated. While pursuing those men twelve powerful heroic men came up suddenly from a concealed spot. They kept up a strong fight with which Shimon and Levi could not win. These powerful men shattered Shimon and Levi’s shields and one was about to strike Shimon’s head with his sword, but Levi quickly put his hand on Shimon’s head and the sword practically cut off Levi’s hand. Levi grabbed the sword away from him and cut off his head.
The fight continued and nobody was winning, Shimon shouted a powerful and tremendous shout which stunned the eleven remaining men. Yehuda and Naftali heard and ran over as Naftali grabbed two shields from his servants and gave them to Shimon and Levi. Still, with Shimon, Levi and Yehudah fighting they could not prevail until sunset; Yaakov heard about it and he davened then went in with Naftali to help them. Yaakov killed three with his arrows and the remaining ones ran back who then met Dan and Asher. They killed two more of them and the remainder were taken by B”y. The rest of the people of the city of Sarton were powerful; one could fight a thousand and two can take ten thousand men, but B”y slew all of them.
Within two hundred cubits of leaving Sarton, the people of Tapuach waged a fight against B”y. They conquered the city then the city of Arebelan came to defend the possessions of their neighbors. The battle was heavy and the women of Arebelan joined in, throwing an enormous amount of stones down at them as thick as rain. B”y were struggling into the evening and they davened. They gained strength and defeated the city. They did the same to the city of Machanaimah and went on their way.
Battle of Gaash: This was the greatest battle of the war. The people of Gaash assembled to avenge their king and the fourteen princes. Not only was this city fortified by three walls but the inhabitants were very powerful, stronger than any of the other cities. Five hundred men were standing on the outer wall while numerous people like the sand at the seashore laid in ambush for B”y as they approached. They surrounded them and started pelting them with stones and arrows. Yehudah saw they were outnumbered and let out a tremendous and terrible shout which frightened the people of Gaash and caused many of them to fall off the wall. The people inside the city were scared for their lives as B”y tried to get in the gates. The people, however, surrounded those gates and prevented them from entering the city, so B”y directed their attack to the people outside the city and were knocking them off like pumpkins. Then they tried to get in the city again but couldn’t and were cornered while arrows and stones rained on them from atop the first wall. B”y realized their approach wasn’t working so they ran back and were taunted by the people of Gaash cursing them and Hashem saying, “What? You thought you can conquer those other cities that aren’t as strong as us then win a battle against us? You will all die in this battle!” This enraged Yehuda and his brothers and they davened. Yehudah ran a great distance and sprang from the ground and mounted the wall, his sword falling out of his hand. Yehudah shouted tremendously on the wall and many of the men fell off and died. The rest were afraid and ran for the city, but some remained on the wall. Those that remained saw that Yehudah had no sword, so they ran to attack him, twenty against one. Yehudah became terrified and cried out to his brothers below who, with Yaakov, responded with arrows which killed three of them. Yehudah kept crying and davening then regained strength and shouted once more through his davening which was heard at a great distance. After, the men around him were terrified and dropped their swords running in fear. Yehudah picked up their dropped swords and killed them. Eighty people came from the city up on the wall to fight Yehudah but were all too afraid to approach him except one man named Arud. He was one of the most powerful among them and he went over to strike Yehudah’s head with his sword. Yehudah used his shield against his head to block the attack but it split in two. This man saw his attack did not go through so he ran for it then slipped and fell from the wall where he was met by B”y who finished him off.
Yehudah developed a large headache from the attack which almost killed him and he screamed out in agony. Dan heard his cry and his anger was kindled and he ran from a distance, sprang from the ground on to the wall to Yehudah. When he landed on the wall the rest of the onlookers ran for it to the second wall of the city where they threw stones and arrows in hopes to drive them away. Yehudah and Dan then jumped to the second wall and the people fled, dropping between the walls. Everyone from the city was screaming and Yaakov with his other sons were anxious what was happening since they couldn’t see beyond the first wall. Naftali was excited by wrath and jumped to the first wall while Yisachar and Zevulun broke down the gates of the city. Naftali jumped to the second wall to help Yehudah and Dan. The remaining people on the second wall fled to the city. Yaakov and his sons with Yehuda, Naftali and Dan surrounded the twenty thousand inhabitants of the city and annihilated them all. Blood flowed out of the city like a brook of water reaching the desert of Beit Horin. The people of that city saw the blood coming from Gaash and seventy of their men ran to see the blood and where it was coming from. They saw it was coming from the walls of Gaash accompanied by the cries within and they realized it was B”y causing it. They ran back to tell their city to gird their loins to prepare for war. Meanwhile, B”y were taking spoils of war and three men from the heart of the city approached to fight. One went for Zevulun who was smaller and smashed him to the ground with all his might. Yaakov saw this and attacked this man with a sword from his loins upward cutting him in two. The second of the three then attacked Yaakov who countered with a loud shout and Shimon and Levi attacked with their swords at his hips making him fall. This man rose up but Yehudah struck him with a sword on his head splitting his skull open. The third man ran for his life into the city while being pursued by B”y. This man saw a sword in the city and grabbed it and started fighting them back. This man ran to Yehuda to kill him who didn’t have a shield and Naftali quickly came and blocked the attack with his shield saving Yehudah. Shimon and Levi ran at this man with their swords on his head and both of their strikes landed splitting him in two lengthwise. They then began to wipe out the people of Gaash into nightfall. B”y took all the spoils of war and nobody remained in the city. On their way out of the city they were met at the final battle of Beit Chorin. The men of this city were also mighty, one could battle a thousand. The men battled hard with great war cries which shook the ground and could be heard far away. B”y became afraid because they never battled at night time before. They davened for Hashem to help them and he heard them. He caused great terror and confusion to the people of Bet Chorin and started fighting each other instead of B”y with great shouting and fear causing the cities across the Yarden to hear it. B”y went veiter and the other cities were shocked that B”y were unstoppable. After the morning B”y went back to the city to see a mound of corpses like the sand of the seashore and took all the spoils then returned to the outskirts of Shechem which Yaakov had purchased from Chamor for five shekels. All the other cities saw the mounds of booty and were afraid of B”y. On the seventh day after the war started, Yaphya the king of Chevron sent secret messengers to the kings of Ai, Gibeon, Shalem, Adulam, Lachush, Hazar and all the Canaanite kings under their hands to make peace with B”y. Twenty one kings and sixty three princes came out to B”y to make the peace. The king of Chevron represented all the other kings and they presented gifts. At first, B”y didn’t trust them but after many bows and pleading B”y took the treaty of peace. They also asked that B”y returned the spoils of war that they took which they did. The kings retreated and there was peace between B”y and the other nations.
After all is said and done, the heart of all of the exhaustion, rejuvenation through tefillah, conquering and efforts through war lies the integrity that bnei yisroel stood for. While everyone else was expecting complacency for what happened with Dina, the descendants of Avraham stood up for what was right while something was done wrong. Their focus was keeping the mitzvos and the Torah to the best of their ability. We may live comfortably in our homes in West Hempstead and enjoy our gashmiyus but we can’t lose focus on what matters to Hashem during our day to day lives. We should all have the strength to live from the guidance of Torah.