Parashat Vayishlach

By: Rabbi Heidi Cohen

It’s a story of two brothers. We know how brothers (and sisters) can be at times. They don’t always agree. They argue, tease, and even ignore. This is an age-old issue, including Jacob and Esau in this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach.

It has been 34 years since Jacob and Esau were last together. Jacob bought the birthright from his brother Esau for a bowl of lentil stew and later stole the blessing given by Isaac to whom he thought was his first born. To avoid his brother’s deep anger, Jacob fled and the time is now that they must meet.

What will Esau do? Jacob is fearful that his brother seeks revenge and wants to destroy him and his family. So Jacob divides his family and livestock in hopes that at least half may survive.

The night before this confrontation, Jacob wrestles with an angel who renames him Yisrael. Prepared for the worst, Jacob heads out to meet his brother, prepared to accept any consequences before him.

But Jacob is surprised – his brother does not strike out to kill him, rather, Esau reaches out to embrace Jacob, to forgive him, ready to move on.

How often do we wrestle with needing to confront someone or a situation? We put it off, afraid of what someone might say or what might happen. We wrestle with these thoughts yet, when we finally take that deep breath and approach the person or situation, we realize, it wasn’t as bad as we expected it to be. But sometimes, our pride, our consciousness makes what we expect the outcome to be that much more difficult.

And yes, email, social media and texting makes confrontation that much easier. We don’t actually have to face someone eye to eye or even talk to them. It seems so much easier to send the email or text message rather than approaching someone directly. And society seems to put its stamp of approval on this impersonal connection. But when we take the time to talk to someone, reach out to someone hand to hand, we realize that the personal connection is so much better, so much more human.

While we might wrestle with needing to approach a person, while we may not be sure of the words we should use to either ask for something or just connect, remember Jacob and Esau, for they embraced and they wept when they were finally able to connect person to person.

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