Parshas Vayishlach

Pachim Katanim

"Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn."

Yaakov was left alone:

Chazal tell us that when Yaakov Avinu moved his camp across the ford of Yabbok he inadvertently left behind some pachim katanim (small pitchers). Since Yaakov Avinu was a wealthy man, he could have left them behind and it wouldn't have detracted from his journey in the slightest. Why would he choose to put his life in danger by traveling alone in the dark, crossing the river over and back, to retrieve vessels of insignificant value?

We must understand that Hashem's hashgacha prattis is embedded in even the smallest detail. Therefore, everything that comes our way has meaning. When evaluating the worth of an item, monetary value is deceptive. The true worth of anything is its purpose in the spiritual realms. Yaakov Avinu was cognizant that Hashem's hashgacha prattis is transmitted via the small things that happen in life. Since Hashem gave him the pachim katanim they must have a special purpose, even if he did not yet know what that was to be. So, he went back to reclaim them.

And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn:

The "man" who wrestled with Yaakov Avinu was the sar (angel – the Satan) of Eisuv. Why did the Satan wait until this moment in time to fight with Yaakov?

When the Yetzer Hara (Satan) wants to bring down a person he knows it is fruitless to launch the attack at the level of the big aveiros, like m'chalel Shabbos or eating trief. As we learn from Parshas Eikev it is easier for the Satan to sabotage us through the small mitzvot that people tend to regard as relatively unimportant, like coming to shul on time or greeting a stranger b'savor panim yafos (with a pleasant disposition). The Satan waited until Yaakov Avinu was involved in retrieving something seemingly trivial. The evil plan was to make it difficult for him to collect the pachim; had Yaakov given up, then that would be a denial of the hashgacha prattis.

Then Yaakov inquired and he said, "Divulge, if you please, your name." And he said, "Why do you inquire of my name?"

Then Yaakov inquired and he said, "Divulge, if you please, your name."

When the Satan responded, it sounded like a question but he was actually saying his name, which is “Why do you inquire…”. Yaakov wanted to know the source of the Satan's strength. By naming the evil, one has power over it.

And he said, "Why do you inquire of my name?"

The name of the Satan is "Why ask?" and this is his strength. If a person gives up asking "why?" he deadens his awareness of Hashem and becomes a servant of circumstances.

A vibrant relationship with Hashem is maintained through an examination of the details within a person's hashgacha prattis. When one truly believes in Hashem then every detail has meaning and should be fully appreciated.

(Footnote: Some say that one of the pachim Yaakov fought for was the one discovered on Chanukah! Little did he know this at the time he rescued the pachim.)

We learn from Yaakov that we can succeed in overcoming our greatest challenges by focusing on the details. Success is found in the details; a call made to a friend, a small gift to someone you love, a helping hand to someone in need and especially a kind word to someone you don’t even know. Add to that your personal prayers and the mitzvot done in private and you will find strength during these difficult times. It’s the details of life that connect us to Hashem.