עם לבן גרתי ואחר עד עתה
I have sojourned with Laban, and been delayed until now
Rashi comments on this passage: “I have fulfilled the 613 (תרי”ג) commandments.”
Many have questioned this comment, inasmuch as Jacob did not fulfill the commandment of honoring his father and mother during his sojourn with Laban, and, in fact, was punished for not doing so. In that case, how could Jacob claim to have reached the total of 613?
Our master explained that, by saying “ואחר עד עתה” (and I have been delayed until now) Jacob intended to exclude the commandment of honoring his father and mother from the total of 613, thereby meaning to say: “I would have fulfilled the 613 commandments but for my having been delayed until now,” thereby acknowledging that he had not fulfilled the commandment to honor his father and mother. But by mentioning his oxen (ויהי לי שור ), an allusion to the future incident with Joseph (who is called an ox), and to his asses (וחמור), a reference to Shehem, the son of Hamor, who violated Dinah, Jacob showed his intuition that he faced retribution for not fulfilling that commandment. Because he realized that his failure to fulfill the commandment of honoring his father and mother would somehow result in Divine retribution that would not be administered by Esau, Jacob could say that he had no reason to fear Esau.
ותגשן השפחות הנה וילדיהן ותשתחוין ותגש גם לאה וילדיה וישתחוו ואחר נגש יוסף ורחל וישתחוו
Then the maidservants came near, they and their children, and they bowed down. And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves; and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed down.
Our master explained that the feminine verb form of “ותשתחוין” (bowed down) is used with the maidservants, because there were two of them (Bilhah and Zilpah), so the corresponding verb had to be plural. The Scripture therefore treated them, not the children, as the principal subjects of the verb, conjugating the verb accordingly in feminine form. But it was not possible to use a plural form of the verb with Leah as the subject, so a plural form of the verb (וישתחוו) required her six children to be included in the subject. The Scripture therefore treated the children as the principal subjects of the verb using a corresponding masculine verb form. However, since Joseph and Rachel were separate, the Scripture could have again used the feminine verb form, the Matriarchs properly taking precedence over the children. Nevertheless, the Scripture chose the masculine form “נגש”, because Joseph approached Esau ahead of his mother. As Rashi explains, Joseph said “my mother is a beautiful woman; so I will stand in front of her and prevent him from gazing at her, so that the wicked man may not set his fancy on her.” That is why the Scripture uses the masculine form to make Joseph, not Rachel, the principal subject.
ויבא יעקב שלם עיר שׁכם וכו’ ויחן את-פני העיר
And Jacob came safely to the city of Shekhem, . . . and he camped before the city.
The Sages comment in the Talmud (Shabbat 33) that the word “שלם” (complete) indicates that Jacob established bathhouses, marketplaces, and coinage for them. And the Shalah ha-qadosh wrote that in mentioning these three ways in which Jacob brought about perfection, the Gemara was indicating the three ways in which a person must perfect himself: perfection of the body, i.e, his actions; perfection of his thinking, i.e., his study; and perfection of his property. Jacob our father came to Shekhem, having perfected his actions in these three ways, and he taught the people how to conduct themselves to achieve such perfection.
It appears to our master that this may be explained based on the writings of the Sages of truth (the Kabbalists) who say that if a righteous person derives benefit from any object, that object is perfected achieving its desired purpose. Similarly if someone makes something or repairs something to fulfill his own desires, and the object is subsequently used by a righteous person for his own benefit, the person who made or repaired that object is perfected, so that what he had done, having benefited a righteous person) was not done in vain. We may say, therefore, that the people of Shekhem had already made bathhouses, marketplaces, and a coinage for themselves. But by deriving benefit from those things, Jacob did them a kindness, because whatever they had made was perfected on his account through his having benefitted from those objects.