Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel, Major Scriptural Commentator (1437-1508)

“Avraham foresaw the length of this exile and the great misfortunes it brought, and he feared that his descendants would rise up to leave the exile before the time set by Hashem, just as the children of Ephraim left the Egyptian exile before the time, whereupon Hashem became angry at them and killed thousands of their best. So Avraham, knowing the time of the End, chased away the birds (Bereishis 15:11) – the son of David (i.e. moshiach) – preventing them from coming down on the carcasses – the nations – until evening, i.e. the time of redemption and the end of exile, as it says, ‘And at the time of evening there will be light.’

“And there is no doubt that it was in reference to this that Shlomo said (Shir Hashirim 2:7), ‘I have adjured you, daughters of Jerusalem, with the deer and the hinds of the field, that you not awaken nor arouse the love before it desires.’ And in Kesubos 111a, ‘Rabbi Yossi bar Chanina said: To what to these three oaths refer? One, that Israel should not go up as a wall. One, that the Holy One, blessed is He, adjured Israel not to rebel against the nations of the world. One, that the Holy One, blessed is He, adjured the nations not to subjugate Israel too much.’ The prohibition on ‘rebelling against the nations’ means that we must bear the yoke of the exile and live under them until the time of the End, when they will pass on. And this is what the prophet Tzefaniah meant when he said (3:8), ‘Therefore wait for Me, said Hashem, for the day when I arise,’ i.e. He commands them to wait until the time of the End, and not rebel and leave the exile before the time set by Him.” (Yeshuos Meshicho v. 1, p. 11b)

In his commentary on Vayishlach he echoes the Ramban: “Just as Yaakov prepared himself with prayer, gifts and war, so it will happen to us in all generations, that our efforts to be saved from Esav and his descendents will be, firstly, by prayer and supplication before the G-d of Yaakov, with gifts, bribes and presents to him, and with war – to flee and save from his hand.” We see clearly that for later generations, war does not mean real war.

“And Hashem your G-d will bring back your captivity and have mercy on you, and He will once again gather you from all the nations where Hashem your G-d scattered you.” (Devarim 30:3) The Abarbanel writes that we learn from this passage that at the time of the future redemption G-d Himself will bring back our exiles, in contrast to the time of the Second Temple when the Jews returned to Eretz Yisroel by the permission of the Persian emperor Cyrus. That settlement, since it was established at the command of a mortal human being, was temporary; it came to an end with the destruction of the Second Temple 420 years later. But the future settlement will be established by G-d Himself, and therefore it will be permanent. (Mashmia Yeshuah, Mevaser 2, Nevuah 3)

In the Haggadah we say, “Ha lachma anya – this is the poor bread…” in Aramaic. But the final words, “Next year we will be free” are in Hebrew. The reason is so that the non-Jews of Babylonia (who spoke Aramaic) should not understand, lest they think the Jews were planning to set themselves free by means of a rebellion against the government. (Zevach Pesach, commentary on the Haggadah, reprinted in Hishbati Eschem)

Our Sages say that everything that happened to Yaakov with Esav was symbolic of what would happen between us and Esav’s descendents, and just as Yaakov prepared himself with prayer, gifts and for war, so it will be with us in every generation: we must make efforts to save ourselves from Esav and his descendents, firstly through prayer and supplications before the G-d of Yaakov, through gifts and bribes, and through war – to run away and be saved from under his hand. (Abarbanel on Vayishlach)


Rabbinic Quotations


Yaakov and Esav