Family Corner: Parshat Vayishlach

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Posted by: Family Corner

Family Corner is a space to offer interactive and thoughtful ideas for family engagement with the Parshat Hashavua (weekly Torah reading). 

This week in the Parsha we encounter themes of Israel, war, prayer, kashrut, and protecting our loved ones and finding positive friends and role models.  

Parsha Summary 

  • Jacob prepares to meet Esau. He wrestles with a "man," who changes Jacob's name to Israel. (32:4-33) 
  • Jacob and Esau meet and part peacefully, each going his separate way. (33:1-17) 
  • Dinah is raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, who was chief of the country. Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi take revenge by murdering all the males of Shechem, and Jacob's other sons join them in plundering the city. (34:1-31) 
  • Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin and is buried in Ephrah, which is present-day Bethlehem. (35:16-21) 
  • Isaac dies and is buried in Hebron. Jacob's and Esau's progeny are listed. (35:22-36:43)  

Torah Thought: Finding Positive Influences

וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח יַעֲקֹ֤ מַלְאָכִים֙ לְפָנָ֔יו אֶל־עֵשָׂ֖ו אָחִ֑יו אַ֥רְצָה שֵׂעִ֖יר שְׂדֵ֥ה אֱדֽוֹם׃ 

Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, (Gen. 32:4) 

According to Rashi, the messengers sent by Jacob were angels. This approach raises the question of why Jacob needed to send angels. Why not send people?  

I recently saw an interesting answer to this question suggesting that in Jacob’s mind, his brother Esau was an unsavory character (while there is little textual evidence to support this, Esau did vow to kill Jacob). As such, Jacob did not want to send human messengers, lest they be influenced in a negative way by Esau.  

This is reminiscent of the teaching found in Pirkel Avot (Ethics Of Our Fathers 1:7): נִתַּאי הָאַרְבֵּלִי אוֹמֵר, הַרְחֵק מִשָּׁכֵן רָע, וְאַל תִּתְחַבֵּר לָרָשָׁע,:  Nittai the Arbelite used to say: keep a distance from an evil neighbor, do not become attached to the wicked...” 

Share this thought with your family to open up a discussion about the importance of  friends who bring out our best, the value of connecting to people who will serve as a positive influence to us and how to avoid negative influences. 

Activities, Crafts and More!

  • Create! Coloring Sheet: Wrestling with the angel
  • Prep! Protecting our loved ones: Create a Family Emergency Plan  
  • Cook! Torah Treat, create an edible reenactment of the story 
  • Learn! Kashrut Family Activity:  "From “OU” to “K” to “Star-K,” there are dozens of kosher certifications to be found on food and beverages throughout the supermarket. If you aren’t familiar, review the labels as a family, make a list and head to the store. Ask your kids to find one item with each symbol. Notice which ones are easier to spot, or if some are missing. Does your supermarket have a kosher section, or are items more spread out? (source: 

PJ Library Recommendation: 

Sammy Spider's First Trip to Israel  by Sylvia Rouss
Ages: 3 to 5 Years 
Synopsis: As a stowaway on a little boy’s model airplane, Sammy Spider joins the family's sightseeing trip in Israel and uses his five senses to experience the country.  

Baxter, The Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher by Laurel Snyder
Ages: 6 to 7 Years
Synopsis: Upon hearing of the joys and sweetness of Shabbat and, especially, of Shabbat dinner, Baxter the Pig sets out to understand what it means to be kosher. 

Contact Hilary Kamin at for more information on the PJ library and to sign up to get PJ Library books delivered to your home!  

Devash (Published by Hadar): Devash is a weekly parashah magazine that makes learning Torah sweet. By engaging directly with texts and taking kids seriously as Jews, Devash helps children and grownups discover new ideas, values, and sweet morsels in the weekly Torah portion. Devash is designed for kids aged 7-11 to read independently, or together with families and teachers. 

Connect with us!

Follow this link and select Coming Up at the J to sign up to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. 

For more information about Jewish Living and Learning at the J, please contact Rabbi Barry Gelman at

We want you to join us for family programs! Click here to find out about all of the great family programs at the J.

Category: Family Corner