Gone with the wind – Parshat Vayishlach

wheat“These are the generations of Esav…” (Bereshit 36,1) The Torah spends the next 43 verses telling us all about Esav’s children, grandchildren, etc., where they went, the kings etc.  Since the Torah is about the Jewish people, it leads one to wonder why all this information about the descendants Esav.  Also, in the end of Parshat Chayei Sara we are told about the generations if Yishmael.  Again, why do we need to know this?

The Midrash Rabba enlightens us with a parable (Parshat Vayishlach, 83:5) “The hay, straw, and chaff got into an argument with each other. This one said, ‘The field was planted on account of me!’ and the other one said, ‘On account of me the field was planted!’  The wheat said, ‘Wait until harvest time and we will know the real reason the field was planted…’”  This discussion sounds like a discourse of competing narratives.  Each side has their own truth in order to justify their own political stance. We can imagine the reasons behind their arguments.  The chaff says, “Certainly the owner needs me to feed his animals.”  The hay says, “I make better animal feed than you.  He planted the field for me, not for you.”  The straw says, “The owner is a polished politician, and needs me in his debates to set up a straw man.”  The wheat has no argument other than to wait and see.

The Midrash continues: “The harvest was gathered in.  The owner went to the threshing floor to thresh the wheat and the chaff blew away. He took the hay and threw it on the ground, and took the straw and burned it.”  Each one of the three protagonists got their answer.  For the chaff… the answer is blowing in the wind.  The hay came from the dust and returned to dust.  When the truth finally came to light, he straw was burnt.

“The owner took the wheat and stored it in the silo, and everyone who saw it kissed it…Thus are the nations of the world: These say ‘We are the raison d’être of mankind, and the world was created for us!  And these say the world was created for us!  Israel says, ‘Wait until the day comes, and we will know for whom the world was created.’  This is what it says. ‘For, behold, the day cometh, it burns as a furnace…’ (Malachi 3:19) And on them it says: ‘Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them;’ (Isaiah 41:16)  But for Israel it says (ibid) ‘and thou shalt rejoice in the L-RD, thou shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.”’

This lesson of this metaphor of this Midrash at the end of the Parsha teaches us that the ultimate purpose is only known at the end.  What happens in the beginning is only a preparation for the end.  The many generations of Esav are mentioned only to tell us what will happen to them in the end: Not so the wicked; but they are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” (Tehilim 1:4)

This is also told us in the end of the Torah in Parshat Ha’azinu:  For the portion of the L-RD is His people, Ya’akov the rope of His inheritance.  Rashi explains that the verse: ‘Ya’akov is the third of our forefathers, the merit of his father’s father, and the merit of his father, and his merit makes three, like a rope that has three strands.  Ya’akov and his descendents are the inheritance of the Holy one Blessed Be He, and not Yishmael son of Avraham, and not Esav son of Yitzchak.’

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