highlight from parashas Vayeitzei
by Tzvi Schnee
The parashas begins in an almost matter of fact manner, stating, “And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran (Genesis 28:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). Many commentators, both past and present, comment upon the prior events of Jacob’s life, as mentioned in the previous parashas. They often conclude that Jacob was fleeing for his life, because of the wrath of Esau. For Torah records Rebecca’s confidential words to her son, Jacob: “My son, hearken to my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; and tarry there a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away” (Genesis 27:43-44, JPS).
However, we do not see Esau in pursuit of Jacob, nor did Jacob make a hasty departure. Rather, after receiving a blessing from his father, Isaac (see Genesis 28:1-4), Jacob departs toward Haran. As for Esau, when he hears that his father Isaac sent his brother Jacob to find a wife that was specifically not from the “daughters of Canaan,” Esau, who had already married two daughters of Heth, a descendant of Canaan, realized that this must have been displeasing to his father. So, Esau regains his composure concerning his anger towards Jacob, “and went unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives that he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son” (Genesis 28:9, JPS). In other words, Esau’s overiding concern at that moment in time was to please his father; thus his anger towards his sibling was suppressed by his filial devotion.
Interestingly, Or HaChaim suggests that “Esau’s anger חרונו, departed from him the moment Jacob departed from Beer Sheva. This is expressed by the words: וילך חרנה” (commentary on Genesis 28:10, sefaria.org). Thus, Esau’s anger was set aside until twenty years later, when Jacob was on his return journey home, and Esau set out to greet him with four hundred armed men. Yet, at that time, Jacob appeased the smouldering resentment of Esau, giving him many animals from his flocks and herds. Additionally, Jacob’s decorum and humility may have elicited a change in Esau’s heart: “Jacob bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept” (Genesis 33:3-4, JPS).
“Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the L-RD.”
– Leviticus 1 9:18, JPS 1917 Tanach