In the first part of the story in the portion Vayishlach, Jacob decides it's time to go back home and meet his brother Esau, after quite a number of years. And the fight that exists between Jacob and Esau, the kabbalists teach, is not actually a fight between two brothers; rather, it is a fight between energies that exist, energies that every single one of us experiences every day. Jacob represents the Light, our soul, the part of us that wants to change and grow, while Esau represents the other side: the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, the aspect that wants to keep us where we are, or maybe even wants to take us backwards. And in this portion is a pinnacle of that battle.
A verse that begins the Zohar's discussion about Vayishlach says, “The Creator will send his angels to protect you in all of your ways.” How do we achieve this level of protection and support? By being aware of the battles that we go through every day, and understanding that we can't possibly win them by ourselves; we need the support of the Light of the Creator – sent through angels. It is, therefore, one of the great gifts of Shabbat Vayishlach that we are given the ability to draw in the angels’ protection and support.
None of us can go through life and achieve its purpose on our own, no matter how elevated, wise, or connected we think we are; we have to draw upon the supernal assistance called angels. There are many different levels to angels, but on the most basic level of understanding they are essentially different energies that can surround, assist, and protect a person. And because Jacob, through his spiritual work, had become whole and perfected, the angel was sent to him. But it also says that as Jacob went on his path, the Shechinah, the female aspect of the Light of the Creator, came and rested with him - and only then did these supernal angels surround him.
Here the Zohar reveals the secret of drawing protection, of drawing angels to assist us in our spiritual work. Many times in life we come to situations that we just don’t think we have the ability to go through or where we feel we need added protection. In such times, we need to remember that we are meant to draw upon these angels. But, in order to do so, we have to first understand the secret the Zohar is telling us here, which is that when the Shechinah, the female aspect of the Light of the Creator, comes and rests within an individual, then the protection of the angels comes and surrounds that person as well.
In the verse that begins the Zohar's discussion about this - “The Creator will assign, will command, the angels to protect you and surround you in all of your ways” - the Zohar is telling us we first need the Shechinah to rest within us, and then Her armies, Her angels, will come with Her to surround and protect us. So, the angels that protect and assist us cannot come on their own; only when we manifest the Shechinah within us can they come.
How do we bring the Shechinah, the female aspect of the Light of the Creator, to rest within us? Through the spiritual work that we do, through transforming, and through restricting the things that disconnect us from the Light. We need to understand that on any given day, any action of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone lifts one more level of the Shechinah from us. And when the Shechinah begins to leave us because of our actions, then the angels begin to leave with Her; as She elevates, the angels elevate with Her, and, as such, the protection, support, and assistance that we need is no longer there for us.
Conversely, every action of sharing, every action of restriction and transformation, draws the Light of the Shechinah stronger into our body, into our soul, and then we are surrounded and protected by these angels. This isn't just a trivial thing or a nice addition to our spiritual work; it's nearly impossible for any of us to accomplish our daily spiritual tasks and connections, or to draw blessings, without the assistance of these angels. So, we have to begin to view our spiritual work and our need to restrict our selfishness in a completely different way, because it’s not that we simply disconnect when we act in these ways; what we are actually doing is forcing the Shechinah to leave us. And then the angels, and their assistance and protection, begin to lift with Her.
Therefore, the understanding we want to come to through the portion Vayishlach is that we can't accomplish our work without these supporting energies called angels. And the way to have them in the quantity and quality that we need is by making sure that the Shechinah rests with us. How does that happen? Through our daily work. Next time we have a desire to act selfishly, to get angry or yell at another person, we need to remember that we're not just doing something that will disconnect us from the Light of the Creator in some vague way, but that we're actually causing the female aspect of the Light of the Creator to lift from us, which in turn, causes the angels that come with Her to lift from us, as well.
With this teaching, hopefully we can begin to push ourselves both to restrict and do extra actions of transformational sharing. Because in so doing, we draw the Light of the Shechinah further and stronger into ourselves, allowing the angels to come and surround us, bringing us greater assistance and protection.