ויקח מן הבא בידו (Bereishis 32,14) the animals that Yaakov prepared to send to his brother as a gift were the ones “that came into his hands”. Rashi explains this to mean that after he set aside maaser from his animals he got together Eisav’s present from those that were now permitted for his personal use. The Sifsei Tzaddik writes a novel interpretation on these words מן הבא בידו based on the story in Nach about the showdown on Har Carmel between Eliyahu Hanaviand the false prophets who worshipped the Baal and Asheirah. As the story goes in a nutshell, both Eiliyahu and the prophets built an altar to pray to their G-d to bring forth a fire from heaven and consume their sacrifice. The false prophets failed miserably to draw fire from their deities and Aliyahu was successful. The assembled then declared ה’ הוא האלקים and the false prophets were killed.
The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabba 23,9) however elaborates by giving a more detailed account of what occurred after they built the two altars. ‘Let two oxen be given to us, and they will choose for themselves one ox and prepare it, and place it upon the wood, applying no fire, and I shall prepare the other ox, and place it on the wood, applying no fire.‘ He said to them: Choose two identical oxen born of the same cow which have grown up in the same pasture. They chose themselves one ox for the Baal, but all 850 prophets of Ba’al and the prophets of Asheira were unable to get it to move its feet, until Eliyahu addressed it and said: Go with them!
The ox answered and said to him before all the nation: My friend and I emerged from the same stomach, from the same cow, and we grew up on the same pasture. He is being dedicated to Hashem, and the Name of the Holy One will be sanctified through him. But I am being dedicated to Baal – to make my Creator angry!
Eliyahu said to him: Ox, ox, have no fear. Go with them, and they will find no pretext. For just as the Name of the Holy One will be sanctified by the ox that is with me, so it will be sanctified through you. The ox said to him: This is what you advise me to do? I swear that I shall not move from here until you [personally] hand me over to them. As it is written, ‘They took the ox that was given to them.’ Who gave it to them? Eliayhu.“
We see from this Medrash that even 850 false prophets could not move the ox to the altar for it didn’t want to be used for Avodah Zarah and only EliyahuHanavi was able to convince it to go on its mission for it will still cause a Kiddush Hashem as well by not being sacrificed to Hashem thereby causing the revelation of avodah zarah to be a grand hoax.
This Medrash reminds me of the story of Reb Zusha and his brother Reb Elimelech from Leszinsk who were once travelling to collect tzedakah and a libel was fabricated about them and they were thrown into jail. They both accepted their lot from Hashem but Reb Zusha was saddened. His brother inquired to the source of his sadness and he pointed to the bathroom bucket that was placed in the corner of their cell to relieve themselves. “Now we cannot even daven and learn because of its close proximity to us. How can we fulfill the ratzon of Hashem? Reb Elimelech smiled to his brother and said “The same Hashem who said to daven and to learn is the same One who said don’t daven and learn in this situation. Every minute we refrain from davening and learning we thereby fulfilling the ratzon of Hashem”.
Upon hearing his brother’s response Reb Zusha’s mood suddenly changed to glee and rejoicing and he began to sing, clap his hands, and dance. Immediately his brother joined him. The prisoners in the other cells were so curious to what made these two madmen break out acting like happy clowns so they asked what is going on? Reb Zusha in the middle of his dancing frenzy just pointed to the bucket and laughed. Their response was so weird and comical that the other prisoners got intoxicated with their merry spirit and used the opportunity to change their moods and they too began dancing and singing. Because of the big raucous, the guards rushed in and asked “What is this commotion all about”? All the prisoners pointed to the bucket that lay in the corner of the brothers’ cell. Quickly the guard unlocked their cell door and removed the bucket with a sinister smile and bellowed “Now let us see with what you will be able to make yourselves happy”.
We see from above that many a situation when we find ourselves seemingly unable to fulfill Hashem’s ratzon we nevertheless fulfill Hashem’s ratzon in another manner. For instance the breaking of the Luchos by Moshe Rabbeinu was met with Hashem’s reaction to this cataclysmic event with a יישר כח (see last Rashi in Chumash). The meforshim explain that since the Luchos were broken, it opened up a window for one to forget the Torah he learned which would necessitate to review it from time to time. Without shattering the Luchos, everyone would have had photographic memories and they would have eventually ceased learning and embracing Torah altogether after a few years. This Rav Hutner ztl callsביטולה היא קיומה that the negation of something can serve as its revival and constant renewal, which causes that the same ratzon of Hashem reappears in a different and better form.
Let us now return to the interpretation of the Sifsei Tzaddik on the wordsויקח מן הבא בידו as he connects them in the same manner as in the story by EliyahuHanavi on Har Carmel. The animals and the flock by Yaakov Avinu did not want to leave their holy owner and belong in the possession of a rasha and decadent lustful individual. By merely being the animals of a tzaddik they sensed the unity and wholesomeness in their existence. In order to be part of the minchaof Aisav they had to be hand coaxed individually by Yaakov by telling them that their going to Aisav will nevertheless make a Kiddush Hashem.
One might ask how can the Sifsai Tzaddik compare the gift of Yaakov to Aisav with the ox that refused to be sacrificed? The ox only acquiesced to Aliyahu’s will because of the promise of Kiddush Hashem that would come about through its sacrifice. What Kiddush Hashem was made by these 580 animals now in Aisav’s possession?
We would like to present four possibilities to answer this question. Number one, that through these animals going over to Aisav and they find favor in his eyes, Yaakov will then be able to build Am Yisrael into the nation as Hashem planned. Secondly, the Ohr HaChayim writes that the sending of this gift was a parallel to the avodah which the Torah commands to be fulfilled on Yom Kippur when we send the goat שעיר to Azazel (to the malach of Aisav) pushing it off the cliff in order to atone for our aveiros. As the passuk says ונשא השעיר the goat, Aisav the איש שעיר, will carry עוונתם the sins of the תם Yaakov. It could very well be that this important mitzvah of Yom Kippur is first created and rooted in this gift of Yaakov Avinu to his brother (similar to the Ran who writes that the mitzvah of Sefiras Haomer became a mitzvah in the Torah because Am Yisrael counted 49 days to Matan Torah after they left Mitzrayim). Through this gift to Aisav, the animals had a tremendous role and tikkun in that they sourced this ritual of the holiest day of the year.
Thirdly, I once saw that there are only two pessukim in the Torah which every word in that passuk ends with a final letter ם. The first passuk is found in our parsha concerning Yaakov’s gift to Aisav (22,15) עזים מאתים ותישים עשריםרחלים מאתים ואלים עשרים. The second passuk is (Bamidbar 29,33). ומנחתםונסכיהם לפרים ולאלים ולכבשים במספרם כמשפטם. The connection between these two pessukim that deal with sacrifices is that all the animals in the gift to Aisav were considered as they were sacrificed by Yaakov. Sometimes a sacrifice of oneself by giving up ruchniyus is upgraded and deemed as if you brought a sacrifice of a higher degree of ruchniyus.
A fourth answer we can say is found in the Chazal (Tanchuma Vayishlach) that the very end results of this gift will reappear in the days of Moshiach when all the original animals and all their generations of offspring will actually be returned to Yaakov and Am Yisrael. One cannot even fathom the incredible Kiddush Hashem that will come about when trillions of animals will reappear again together with the original 580. With Hashem no cheshbon of a good deed is lost.
תוספות על התורה בראשית לג יא כותב א”ר הושעיא א”ל זקן אחד אומר לך מדרש אחד וכשתאמר אותם אמור בשמי עתיד עשו להחזיר ליעקב כל מה שנטל ממנו שנאמר (תהלים ע”ב י) מלכי אדום וכנען אשכר יקריבו מכאן למדנו שישיבו כל המנחה ששלח יעקב לעשו א”ל וכי זו בלבד והלא דברים ק”ו מה יעקב שלא נתן לעשו כי אם מעט ובעל כרחו עתיד הקב”ה להחזיר לנו, אומות העולם שלקחו וגזלו ואנסו ישראל והרגו אותם על אחת כמה וכמה ולא עוד אלא יחזירו הכפל ארבעה וחמשה ולא עוד אלא (ישעיה ס’ יז) תחת הנחושת אביא זהב ותחת הברזל כסף כל הפריעות הללו אינן אלא ממונם של ישראל שגזלו אבל במה שהרגו ישראל אין להם כפרה שנאמר (יואל ד’ כא) ונקיתי דמם לא נקיתי מיד הודיתי לו.
The Chasam Sofer writes in the parsha on the passuk (32,21)והנה גם הוא אחרינו this is to convey the same thought, that Aisav at the times of Moshiach the period of אחרינו that comes after us, Aisav will come and return the מנחה gift that Yaakov gave to him and all the possessions that his descendants stole from Am Yisrael throughout the generations.
אכן יהי רצון.