November 19, 2021                                                                                                       Kislev 15, 5782
Candlelighting Time 4:23 PM

Yaakov returns to his parents after a 20-year absence and he is about to encounter his nemesis, Eisav who is bent on killing him because he stole the blessings from their father Yitzchok. Yaakov tries to appease his brother and sends him magnanimous gifts. Eisav is overwhelmed with the enormity of the presents and actually refuses to accept them because he doesn’t need them. The Midrash accuses Yaakov of attracting Eisav’s attention and if he would have just continued on then the entire episode would not have occurred. However, from the straightforward understanding of the Torah it would appear that Yaakov was attempting to humble himself in order to avoid an anticipated skirmish with him. Why do the Sages reprimand Yaakov for sending the gifts?

Chasam Sofer offers an incredible insight into the thinking of Yaakov. Although at face value it would seem that Yaakov was the essence of humility, however embedded in the presents to Eisav was a very strongly worded message. He told him that he had been 20 years in the house of Lavan, but he did not absorb any of Lavan’s destructive nature. That certainly required much effort and diligence. Therefore, don’t expect any time in the near future that I or my family are going to falter and then you will be able to attack us! Since Yitzchok’s blessing to Yaakov that he would reign supreme was contingent upon fulfillment of the Torah, Yaakov was clearly expressing to Eisav that he was up to par with adherence to the mitzvos. 

Although meant altruistically, Yaakov’s response to Eisav smacked of certitude, exuding an air of self-confidence conceivably somewhat lacking full conviction that all is in the hands of Hashem. Therefore, that ambience of self-confidence somewhat corrupted the integrity of the gifts to Eisav. Hence since there was a degree of impropriety it is considered as though Yaakov approached Eisav incorrectly.

This understanding may also explain the various reasons given that Dina, Yaakov’s daughter, was abused by Shechem. One explanation is that when Lavan pursued him he retorted that his honesty in his dealings with Lavan will be borne out tomorrow. Again, somewhat of a rather self-indulging comment which suggests a circumvention of reliance upon Hashem. Furthermore, when Yaakov encountered Eisav, he locked her up in a box barring Eisav from noticing her and perhaps wanting her as a wife. Hashem responded that since he didn’t want her to get married legally to Eisav, therefore, she was illegally apprehended and abused. Again, we may assume that Yaakov’s level of trust and faith in Hashem demanded a more trusting approach to this situation which the Sages seem to indicate in their censure of his actions. Also, when Hashem commanded Yaakov to return to his parents, he delayed his trip home and did not exactly follow the mandate. It would seem as though Yaakov perceived that he controlled what he would do somewhat ignoring Hashem’s clear command to return home immediately. Additionally, the Torah states that prior to Shechem’s abduction and subsequent abuse of Dina, she went out, presumably of the area that they had camped in. This was reminiscent of her mother Leah that after gifting the special herbs to Rochel, she merited to spend that night with Yaakov. When he returned from the field, she went out to greet him, informing him of that deal that she had made with Rochel. Again, a similar mode of taking the situation into her own hands and not allowing the situation to develop as Hashem would have orchestrated the events. These lapses in full confidence that Hashem would coordinate that everything would fall into place allowed for a disruption in full Divine supervision of their lives.   


When Yaakov battled the angel of Eisav, the dust from their combat reached to the very foundation of Hashem’s throne. Our struggle with the ‘forces of evil’ are ongoing and unrelenting until the glory of Hashem is revealed, and all will recognize His kingship.           S’FAS EMES