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Vayishlach or Vayishlah (וישלח — Hebrew for "he sent,” the first word of the parshah) is the eighth weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis 32:4–36:43. Jews in the Diaspora read it the eighth Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in late November or December.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (illustration by Gustave Doré)


Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (painging by Alexander Louis Leloir)

Jacob’s reunion with Esau

Jacob sent a message to Esau in Edom that he had stayed with Laban until then, had oxen, donkeys, flocks, and servants, and hoped to find favor in Esau’s sight. (Genesis 32:4–6.) The messengers returned and greatly frightening Jacob with the report that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. (Genesis 32:7–8.) Jacob divided his camp in two, reasoning that if Esau destroyed one of the two, then the other camp could escape. (Genesis 32:8–9.) Jacob prayed to God, recalling that God had promised to return him whole to his country, noting his unworthiness for God’s transformation of him from a poor man with just a staff to the leader of two camps, and prayed God to deliver him from Esau, as God had promised Jacob good and to make his descendants as numerous as the sand of the sea. (Genesis 32:10–13.) Jacob assembled a present of hundreds of goats, sheep, camels, cattle, and donkeys to appease Esau, and instructed his servants to deliver them to Esau in successive droves with the message that they were a present from his servant Jacob, who followed behind. (Genesis 32:14–21.)

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 063

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (painting by Rembrandt)

As the presents went before him, Jacob took his wives, handmaids, children, and belongings over the Jabbok River, and then remained behind that night alone. (Genesis 32:22–25.) Jacob wrestled with a man until dawn, and when the man saw that he was not prevailing, he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh and strained it. (Genesis 32:25–26.) The man asked Jacob to let him go, for the day was breaking, but Jacob would not let him go without a blessing. (Genesis 32:27.) The man asked Jacob his name, and when Jacob replied “Jacob,” the man told him that his name would no more be Jacob, but Israel, for he had striven with God and with men and prevailed. (Genesis 32:28–29.) Jacob asked the man his name, but the man asked him why, and then blessed him. (Genesis 32:30.) Jacob named the place Peniel, saying that he had seen God face to face and lived. (Genesis 32:31.) And at sunrise, Jacob limped from the injury to his thigh. (Genesis 32:32.) Because of this, the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the vein that is the hollow of the thigh, because the angel touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh. (Genesis 32:33.)

Francesco Hayez 061

The Reunion of Jacob and Esau (painting by Francesco Hayez)

When Jacob saw Esau coming with 400 men, he divided his family, putting the handmaids and their children foremost, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph at the back. (Genesis 33:1–2.) Jacob went before them, and bowed to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. (Genesis 33:3.) Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, and kissed him, and they wept. (Genesis 33:4.) Esau asked who women and the children were, Jacob told him that they were his, and they all came to Esau and bowed down. (Genesis 33:5–7.) Esau asked what Jacob meant by all the livestock, and Jacob told him that he sought Esau’s favor. (Genesis 33:8.) Esau said that he had enough, but Jacob pressed him to accept his present saying that seeing Esau’s face was like seeing the face of God, and Esau took the gifts. (Genesis 33:9–11.) Esau suggested that Jacob and he travel together, but Jacob asked that Esau allow Jacob’s party to travel more slowly, so as not to tax the young children and the flocks, until they came to Esau in Seir. (Genesis 33:12–14.) Esau offered to leave some of his men behind with Jacob, but Jacob declined. (Genesis 33:15.) So Esau left for Seir, and Jacob left for Sukkot (meaning “booths”), where he built a house and made booths for his cattle, thus explaining the place’s name. (Genesis 33:16–17.)

Dinah tissot

Dinah (watercolor by James Tissot)

The rape of Dinah

Jacob came to Shechem, where he bought a parcel of ground outside the city from the children of Hamor for a hundred pieces of money. (Genesis 33:18–19.) Jacob erected an altar there, and called the place El-elohe-Israel.

When Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land, the prince of the land, Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, saw her and lay with her by force. (Genesis 34:1–2.) Shechem loved Dinah and asked Hamor to arrange that he might marry her. (Genesis 34:3–4.) Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled Dinah while Jacob’s sons were in the field, and Jacob held his peace until they returned. (Genesis 34:5.) When Jacob’s sons heard, they came in from the field, and were grieved and very angry. (Genesis 34:7.)

Figures Simeon Levi Slay Sichemites

Simeon and Levi Slay the Shechemites (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Hamor went out to Jacob and told him that Shechem longed for Dinah, and asked Jacob to give her to him for a wife, and to agree that their two people might intermarry and live and trade together. (Genesis 34:6–10.) And Shechem offered to give Jacob and his sons whatever they wanted as a bride price. (Genesis 34:11–12.) Jacob’s sons answered with guile, saying that they could not give their sister to one not circumcised, and said that they would consent only on the condition that every man of the town became circumcised, and then the two people might intermarry and live together; otherwise they would leave. (Genesis 34:13–17.) Their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, and Shechem did so without delay, out of delight with Dinah. (Genesis 34:18–19.)

Hamor and Shechem spoke to the men of the city in the city gate, saying that Jacob’s family were peaceable, and advocated letting them dwell in the land, trade, and intermarry. (Genesis 34:20–21.) Hamor and Shechem reported that Jacob’s people would only do so on the condition that every man of the town was circumcised, and they argued that the men do so, for Jacob’s animals and wealth would add to the city’s wealth. (Genesis 34:22–23.) And the men heeded Hamor and Shechem, and every man of the city underwent circumcision. (Genesis 34:24.)

On the third day, when the men of the city were in pain, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi each took his sword, came upon the city with stealth, and killed all the men, including Hamor and Shechem, and took Dinah out of the city. (Genesis 34:25–26.) Jacob’s sons looted the city, taking as booty their animals, their wealth, their wives, and their children. (Genesis 34:27–29.) Jacob told Simeon and Levi that they had made him odious to the inhabitants of the land, who would gather together against him and destroyed their family. (Genesis 34:30.) Simeon and Levi asked whether they were to allow someone to treat their sister as a prostitute. (Genesis 34:31.)

Jacob’s flight

God told Jacob to move to Bethel, and make an altar there to God, who had appeared to him there when he fled from Esau. (Genesis 35:1.) Jacob told his household to put away their idols, change their garments, and purify themselves for the trip to Bethel, and they gave Jacob all their idols and earrings and Jacob buried them under the terebinth by Shechem. (Genesis 35:2–4.) A terror of God fell upon the nearby cities so that the people did not pursue Jacob, and they journeyed to Luz, built an altar, and called the place El-beth-el. (Genesis 35:5–7.)

Rebekah's nurse Deborah died, and they buried her below Beth-el under an oak they called Allon-bacuth. (Genesis 35:8.)

And God appeared to Jacob again and blessed him, saying to him that his name would not be Jacob anymore, but Israel. (Genesis 35:9–10.) And God told him to be fruitful and multiply, for nations and kings would descend from him, and God would give Jacob and his descendants the land that God gave to Abraham and Isaac. (Genesis 35:11–12.) And Jacob set up a pillar of stone in the place, poured a drink-offering and oil on it, and called the place Bethel. (Genesis 35:14–15.)

They left Bethel, and before they had come to Ephrath, Rachel went into a difficult labor. (Genesis 35:16.) The midwife told her not to fear not, for this child would also be a son for her. (Genesis 35:17.) And just before Rachel died, she named her son Ben-oni, but Jacob called him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:18.) They buried Rachel on the road to Ephrath at Bethlehem, and Jacob set up a pillar on her grave. (Genesis 35:19–20.) And Israel journeyed beyond Migdal-eder. (Genesis 35:21.)

While Israel dwelt in that land, Reuben lay with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it. (Genesis 35:21.)

The text then recounts Jacob’s children born to him in Padan-aram. (Genesis 35:22–26.)

Jacob came to Isaac at Hebron, Isaac died at the old age of 180, and Esau and Jacob buried him. (Genesis 35:27–29.)

The text then recounts Esau’s children. (Genesis 36:1–5.) Esau took his household, animals, and all his possessions that he had gathered in Canaan and went to a land apart from Jacob, in Edom, for their substance was too great for them to dwell together. (Genesis 36:6–8.) The text then recounts Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, among whom were Amalek. (Genesis 36:9–43.)

In inner-biblical interpretation

Genesis chapter 33

The 100 pieces of silver that Jacob paid the children of Hamor for the parcel of ground where he had spread his tent outside the city of Shechem in Genesis 33:18–19 compares with the 400 shekels of silver that Abraham paid Ephron the Hittite to buy the cave of Machpelah and adjoining land in Genesis 23:14–16; the 50 shekels of silver that King David paid Araunah the Jebusite for Araunah’s threshing floor, oxen, and wood in 2 Samuel 24:18–24 (but 1 Chronicles 21:24 reports cost 600 shekels of gold); and the 17 shekels of silver that Jeremiah paid his cousin Hanamel for his field in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin in Jeremiah 23:7–9.

In classical rabbinic interpretation

Genesis chapter 32

The Rabbis of the Midrash questioned the wisdom of Jacob’s decision to contact Esau in Genesis 32:4. Nahman ben Samuel compared the decision to waking a robber sleeping on a path to tell him of danger. The Rabbis envisioned that God asked Jacob: “Esau was going his own way, yet you sent to him?” (Genesis Rabbah 75:1–3.)

The Rabbis of the Midrash deduced that the “messengers” of Genesis 32:4 were angels. The Rabbis reasoned that if (as Genesis Rabbah 59:10 taught) an angel escorted Eliezer, who was just a servant of the house, how much the more would angels have accompanied Jacob, who was the beloved of the house. Rabbi Hama ben Hanina reasoned that if five angels appeared to Hagar, who was just Sarah's handmaid, how much more would angels appear to Jacob. And Rabbi Jannai reasoned that if three angels met Joseph (counting the three uses of “man” in Genesis 37:15–17), and he was the youngest of the ancestors of the 12 tribes if Israel, how much more would angels meet Jacob, who was the father of all 12. (Genesis Rabbah 75:4.)

Rabbi Jacob bar Idi pointed out a contradiction between God’s promise to protect Jacob in Genesis 28:15 and Jacob’s fear in Genesis 32:8; Rabbi Jacob explained that Jacob feared that some sin might cause him to lose the protection of God's promise. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 4a, Sanhedrin 98b.)

Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 036

Jacob Wrestles with the Angel (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Die Bibel in Bildern)

Figures Jacob Wrestles Angel

Jacob wrestles with an Angel (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Rabbi Eleazar taught that Obadiah hid 50 of 100 prophets of God in a cave in 1 Kings 18:4 because he learned the lesson of dividing his camp from Jacob’s actions in Genesis 32:8–9. Rabbi Abbahu, however, said that it was because the cave could hold only 50. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 39b, Taanit 20b.)

Rabbi Yannai taught that when people expose themselves to danger and are saved by miracles, it is deducted from their merits and so they end up with less merit to their credit. Rabbi Hanin cited Genesis 32:11 to prove this, reading Jacob to say to God: “I am become diminished [that is, I have less merit to my credit] by reason of all the deeds of kindness and all the truth that You have shown to your servant.” (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 32a.)

Rabbi Hama ben Hanina taught that the “man” who wrestled with Jacob in Genesis 32:25 was Esau’s guardian angel, and that Jacob alluded to this when he told Esau in Genesis 33:10, “Forasmuch as I have seen your face, as one sees the face of Elohim, and you were pleased with me.” (Genesis Rabbah 78:3.)

Chapter 7 of Tractate Chullin in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the prohibition of the sinew of the hip (the sciatic nerve, gid ha-nasheh) in Genesis 32:33. (Mishnah Chullin 7:1–6; Tosefta Chullin 7:1–8; Babylonian Talmud Chullin 89b–103b.) The Mishnah taught that the prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve in Genesis 32:33 is in force both within the Land of Israel and outside it, both during the existence of the Temple and after it, and with respect to both consecrated and unconsecrated animals. It applies to both domesticated and wild animals, and to both the right and the left hip. But it does not apply to birds, because they have no spoon-shaped hip as the muscles upon the hip bone (femur) of a bird lie flat and are not raised and convex like those of cattle. It also applies to a live fetus found in a slaughtered animal, although Rabbi Judah said that it does not apply to a fetus. And the live fetus’ fat is permitted. Rabbi Meir taught that one should not trust butchers to remove the sciatic nerve, but the Sages taught that one may trust butchers to remove the sciatic nerve as well as the fat that Leviticus 3:17 and 7:23 forbids. (Mishnah Chullin 7:1; Babylonian Talmud Chullin 89b.)

Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven

The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau (illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company)

Genesis chapter 33

Rabbi Haninah taught that Esau paid great attention to his parent (horo), his father, whom he supplied with meals, as Genesis 25:28 reports, “Isaac loved Esau, because he ate of his venison.” Rabbi Samuel the son of Rabbi Gedaliah concluded that God decided to reward Esau for this. When Jacob offered Esau gifts, Esau answered Jacob in Genesis 33:9, “I have enough (רָב, rav); do not trouble yourself.” So God declared that with the same expression that Esau thus paid respect to Jacob, God would command Jacob’s descendants not to trouble Esau’s descendants, and thus God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 2:3, “You have circled this mountain (הָר, har) long enough (רַב, rav).” (Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:17.)

A Baraita taught that if an idol worshiper asks a Jew where the Jew is going, the Jew should tell the idolater that the Jew is heading towards a place beyond the Jew’s actual destination, as Jacob told the wicked Esau. For in Genesis 33:14, Jacob told Esau, “Until I come to my lord to Seir,” while Genesis 33:17 records, “And Jacob journeyed to Succot.” (Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 25b.) Reading the account in Genesis 33:14, Rabbi Abbahu said that he searched the whole Scriptures and did not find that Jacob ever went to Esau at Seir. Rabbi Abbahu asked whether it was then possible that Jacob, the truthful, could have deceived Esau. Rabbi Abbahu concluded that Jacob would indeed come to Esau, in the Messianic era, as Obadiah 1:21 reports, “And saviors shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau.” (Genesis Rabbah 78:14.)

Albrecht Dürer 043

Job and his wife (painting by Albrecht Dürer)

Genesis chapter 34

A Tanna taught in Rabbi Jose’s name that Shechem was a place predestined for evil, for in Shechem Dinah was raped (as reported in Genesis 34:2), Joseph’s brothers sold him (as reported in Genesis 37:17, Dothan being near Shechem), and the united kingdom of Israel and Judah was divided (as reported in 1 Kings 12:1). (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 102a.)

A Baraita reported that some said that Job lived in the time of Jacob and married Dinah, finding the connection in the use of the same word with regard to Job’s wife in Job 2:10, “You speak as one of the impious women (nebalot) speaks,” and with regard to Dinah in Genesis 34:7, “Because he had committed a vile deed (nebelah) in Israel.” (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 15b.)

The Mishnah deduced from Genesis 34:25 that the wound from a circumcision is still serious enough on the third day that one bathes a circumcised baby on that day even if it is the Sabbath. (Mishnah Shabbat 9:3, 19:3; Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 86a, 134b.)

Genesis chapter 35

Considering the consequences of Reuben’s infidelity with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah in Genesis 35:22, Rabbi Eleazar contrasted Reuben’s magnanimity with Esau’s jealousy. As Genesis 25:33 reports, Esau voluntarily sold his birthright, but as Genesis 27:41 says, “Esau hated Jacob,” and as Genesis 27:36 says, “And he said, ‘Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he has supplanted me these two times.’” In Reuben’s case, Joseph took Reuben’s birthright from him against his will, as 1 Chronicles 5:1 reports, “for as much as he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph.” Nonetheless, Reuben was not jealous of Joseph, as Genesis 37:21 reports, “And Reuben heard it, and delivered him out of their hand.” (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 7b.)

The Mishnah taught that the story of Reuben’s infidelity with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah in Genesis 35:22 is read in the synagogue but not translated. (Mishnah Megillah 4:10; Babylonian Talmud Megillah 25a.)

Genesis chapter 36

The Gemara taught that the use of the pronoun “he (hu)” in an introduction, as in the words “this is (hu) Esau” in Genesis 36:43, signifies that he was the same in his wickedness from the beginning to the end. Similar uses appear in Numbers 26:9 to teach Dathan and Abiram’s enduring wickedness, in 2 Chronicles 28:22 to teach Ahaz’s enduring wickedness, in Esther 1:1 to teach Ahasuerus’s enduring wickedness, in 1 Chronicles 1:27 to teach Abraham’s enduring righteousness, in Exodus 6:26 to teach Moses and Aaron’s enduring righteousness, and in 1 Samuel 17:14 to teach David’s enduring humility. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 11a.)


According to Maimonides and Sefer ha-Chinuch, there is one negative commandment in the parshah:

(Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Negative Commandment 183. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 2:180–81. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 1:89–90. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1991. ISBN 0-87306-179-9.)


The haftarah for the parshah is:

Haggadah 14th cent

A page from a 14th century German Haggadah

In the liturgy

The Passover Haggadah, in the concluding nirtzah section of the Seder, in a reference to Genesis 32:23–30, recounts how Israel struggled with an angel and overcame him at night. (Menachem Davis. The Interlinear Haggadah: The Passover Haggadah, with an Interlinear Translation, Instructions and Comments, 108. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-57819-064-9. Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, 123. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8276-0858-0.)

In the Blessing after Meals (Birkat Hamazon), at the close of the fourth blessing (of thanks for God’s goodness), Jews allude to God’s blessing of the Patriarchs described in Genesis 24:1, 27:33, and 33:11. (Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for the Sabbath and Festivals with an Interlinear Translation, 172. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-697-3. Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 342. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.)

Further reading


Classical rabbinic

  • Mishnah: Shabbat 9:3, 19:3; Megillah 4:10; Chullin 7:1–6. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 190, 202, 323, 778–80. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Berakhot 1:10, 4:16; Bikkurim 2:2; Megillah 3:35; Avodah Zarah 3:4; Chullin 7:1–8. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:6, 26, 348, 652; 2:1269, 1393–95. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 17b, 83a, 84b; Sheviit 72a; Orlah 34a. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 1, 2, 6b, 12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2005–2008.
  • Genesis Rabbah 75:1–83:5. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
First page of the first tractate of the Talmud (Daf Beis of Maseches Brachos)


  • Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 4a, 12b; Shabbat 32a, 33b, 55b, 85a, 86a, 134b; Eruvin 53a; Pesachim 7b, 22a, 47b, 54a, 83b, 118b, 119b; Yoma 77b; Sukkah 5b, 39a; Beitzah 12a; Rosh Hashanah 26a; Taanit 20b, 27b; Megillah 11a, 17a, 18a, 21b, 25a–b; Chagigah 5b; Yevamot 65b; Nedarim 31b; Nazir 23a; Sotah 22b, 36b, 41b; Kiddushin 21b, 55a; Bava Kamma 41a, 92a; Bava Metzia 86b; Bava Batra 15b, 74b, 115b–16a, 123b; Sanhedrin 39b, 56a, 59a, 82b, 94a, 98b, 99b, 102a; Makkot 7b, 11a–b, 21b; Avodah Zarah 8b, 11b, 25b; Horayot 10b, 12a; Chullin 7b, 69a, 89b–103b, 134b, 137b; Keritot 21a; Niddah 63a. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.


  • Solomon ibn Gabirol. A Crown for the King, 36:488–89. Spain, 11th Century. Translated by David R. Slavitt, 66–67. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-511962-2.
  • Rashi. Commentary. Genesis 32–36. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 1:359–407. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-89906-026-9.


  • Zohar 1:165b–79a. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.


Thomas Mann 1937


See also

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Old book bindings


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