Twenty-one years have passed since Jacob fled for his life from his twin brother Esau. Now, on his own, with a large family to protect, Jacob sends messengers to Esau in an attempt at reconciliation. When they return to Jacob they report, “We came to your brother, to Esau, and he is actually coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” (Gen. 32:7) Jacob divides his camp, so that if Esau attacks one, the other can escape. He then sends servants ahead, each with a different herd to present to Esau as tribute – presenting gift after gift in what must have been a bewildering array. Yet, despite Jacob's generosity, Esau continued to advance with his four hundred men. It is only when Jacob and Esau meet face to face the next day, that they are able to make peace.
What do we learn from this?
Americans grow up learning a sense of pride in self-sufficiency. “If you want the job done right, do it yourself.” However, Judaism teaches the opposite. We might say: “If you want the job done right, get help and work together.” Here, in YaYigash, is an exception. Jacob sends emissaries to make peace with Esau, but they fail because when it comes to reconciling our differences nobody can do that for us. Relationships are personal; only we can cultivate them, nourish them or repair them. Our friends might be able to arrange a meeting, but only we can mend our fences.
In a few days, families all over the United States will gather around their tables to celebrate Thanksgiving. Perhaps we can use this opportunity to learn from Jacob and Esau and bring even more peace into our homes.
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras