Vayishlach – Esau

As our forefather, Yakov Avinu, left his abode in Haran, where he had tended his uncle Lavan’s sheep for twenty years as he established his own family, he came to perhaps the most crucial juncture in his life.  He had to return to the conflict that most defined his life – his sibling rivalry with his twin brother Esau.  Realizing that Yakov had rightfully bought and taken the blessings of the firstborn (the “birthright”), Esau sought to eliminate and do away with Yakov entirely.  And as Yakov approached the land of Israel, Esau got word of his approach and came to meet him with four hundred fighting men.

Yakov’s response was three-fold: 1) to divide the camp so that if one part was defeated in war, at least the other part would survive 2) to prepare to appease his brother Esau by sending him presents 3) to pray.  In the meantime, before actually meeting Esau, Yakov was left on his own for a brief time, which he used to “wrestle” with Esau’s “angel” – his spiritual counterpart.  It was in this “wrestling” competition that the conflict was truly decided – Yakov “defeated” the angel in battle, and from that point on, he of course defeated Esau as well when the two of them finally met. Since it occurred in the spiritual realm above, it was reflected in their relationship below as well.

Meantime, “back on the ranch” in the physical world, the moment of reckoning was approaching.  As Esau approached, he received his brother Yakov’s gifts, and his heart seemed to melt.  And when he finally met Yakov, he fell on his neck and they embraced…but isn’t this story just a little difficult to “swallow”?  Why would two brothers, sworn enemies for years, just automatically and suddenly become “friends”?  There must be more to the story…and there is.  The truth is that Esau had no choice…he had to get along with Yakov because all the men who traveled with him melted away and he was left alone to face Yakov.  Under such circumstances, Esau was no match for Yakov, who had men and family to fight with him and protect him.  That’s the real reason that Esau did not harm to Yakov – he couldn’t!

For more details and explanation, go to

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 35, pp 140-149


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