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And I have given you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the land of Amorite with my sword and my bow (Bereishis 48:22).
The above posuk describes Yaakovs conquest of part of Eretz Yisroel. The literal reading of the posuk makes it clear that the weapons Yaakov used were a sword and bow. However, Targum Unkelos translates these words as tzlosie and bausie, which in turn may be translated as prayer and supplication. The Targum is teaching us not to translate sword and bow literally but figuratively. The true weapon of Yaakov is prayer. We may ask: why was it necessary for Yaakov to mention the exact weapons used in battle. Furthermore, if the Targum is correct in that there were no real weapons but only prayer why then is this not mentioned explicitly in the posuk.
It is noteworthy that the Torah describes the nations of Esav and Yishmael as those who bear the sword and shoot arrows. In parshas Toldos, Yitzchak blessed Esav by saying By your sword you shall live (Bereishis 27:40). Likewise in parshas Vayeira, the posuk says regarding Yishmael, Hashem was with the young lad and he grew up; he dwelt in the desert and became one who shoots arrows with a bow (Bereishis 21:20). From these two posukim we derive that the sword is a symbol of Esav and the bow and arrow are symbols of Yishmael.
We may suggest the following. The Amorites originally occupied the portion of land that Yaakov captured. Yaakov hinted to Yosef that even after removing the Amorites from the land he still had to fight with a sword and bow to counter those who bear the sword and bow. These enemies are none other then Esav and Yishmael. Even after Yaakov drove out the Amorites, the nations of Esav and Yishmael refused to allow Yaakov to occupy the land due to jealousy or outright hatred. Yaakov thus had to mention the sword and bow to allude to Esav and Yishmael. However the Targum explains that although these words were necessary we may not overlook the true weapon of prayer.
Chazal teach us that whatever happened to our forefathers are a sign for us. We also have conquered the land from the seven Canaanite nations, yet today we find ourselves contending with those who bear the sword and bow. They are none other then the descendents of Esav and Yishmael. The rules of war dictate that we engage the enemy with the same kind of weapons and tactics used against us. However the Targum reminds us that our most potent weapon is prayer.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001