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Parsha Vayishlach

11/22/2018 09:08:49 PM


In a peacemaking role, Yaakov prepares for his dreaded encounter with Eisav by sending an appeasing present backed by a pacifying statement.  Yaakov’s opening words to Eisav are simply “I have been living with Lavan,” but despite the seemingly trivial and innocuous tone of these words, they truly give us insight into the depth of Yaakov and Eisav’s interaction and dialogue.  Rashi comments that Yaakov meant to convey to Eisav that his current state in life gave Eisav nothing to be jealous and upset about, because the promise of Yitzchak’s blessings that Yaakov would rule over his brother in fabulous success and wealth had obviously gone unfulfilled.  It seems strange that Yaakov would insinuate that Yitzchak’s blessings had gone unfulfilled- was Yaakov himself disbelieving in their power?  In a second interpretation, Rashi notices that the numerical value of the words adds up to 613, as Yaakov was alluding to the fact that although he was in the wicked surroundings of Lavan, he still remained steadfast to the fulfillment of the 613 mitzvos.  Why would Yaakov choose to boast this to Eisav?  Of what interest was it to Eisav that Yaakov had kept the mitzvos?


Perhaps the two comments of Rashi are meant to complement one another and bring to us to a deeper understanding of what message Yaakov was really trying to express.  The struggle of Yaakov and Eisav, from their earliest interaction to the current stage of the relationship, has been the struggle of the power of “now” versus the power of “future.”  Arriving hungry from the field and seeing a pot of lentils, Eisav chose the present food and abandoned his future rights to the birthright.  Inherent in his literal name, Eisav personified the attitude of “Asui”- ready-made- and lived life with a mindset of trying to grab anything the present moment offered.  Eisav and Yaakov part in this week’s Parsha in stark contrast, with Eisav returning to Seir and Yaakov journeying on, leaving Eisav with his word that one day he will eventually join him in Seir.  Eisav remains stagnant as he waits for Yaakov at Seir, until the day that Yaakov’s growth will finally bring Mashiach and bring him to a great showdown with Eisav at Seir.  Yaakov idealized the future of life and perceived that everything has a greater purpose and a greater goal than just the immediate context.  A man on a mission, Yaakov promises to meet Eisav at Seir well knowing that it would take thousands of years more of growing and growing before he would rest at Seir.  Both Yaakov and Eisav’s visions clashed over Yitzchak’s blessings, but from polarized angles.  Eisav saw the blessings as an answer for immediate success of wealth and power, whereas Yaakov saw the blessings as a means for success in the mission he was on to lay the roots for the future of the Jewish People.  In his succinct message here, Yaakov is saying that the blessings were obviously not about immediate affluence and power, and that their true efficacy can only be understood in the bigger picture of the life he is leading.  Yaakov is saying that the blessings are discernible in him not in superfluous wealth, but in his ability to be in Lavan’s house for 20 years, build something from nothing, start a family and support them, and still remain loyal to the ways of the Torah.  With less emphasis on the wealth itself and more focus on the opportunities offered by wealth, Yaakov’s ideas of the blessings hardly resembled Eisav’s.  The means that the blessings provided were the necessary confidence and Divine assistance for Yaakov to begin his mission, and the true measure of the blessings remains unknown but persistent to this day.  Eisav is mollified by these words, because his angle to the blessings sees them as unfulfilled as he is assured that Yaakov has not stolen any easy gains from him, but as he waits dormant at Seir, the power of a futuristic mindset stands to overwhelm him.   

Mon, November 29 2021 25 Kislev 5782