"And Jacob sent angels to his brother Esau." (Gen. 29:12)

Rashi comments that they were not just messengers, but really heavenly angels! The Maggid of Mezrich says that Jacob sent the physical aspect of the angels to Esau but kept their spiritual potency with him. Influencing and transforming Esau is spiritual work, why only send the physical? What point is the Maggid trying to make and how does it relate to us? Only when the spiritual part of the angel stayed with Jacob…could the physical part be effective at transforming Esau…

Only when the spiritual part of the angel stayed with Jacob, feeling that that was its true place, could the physical part be effective at transforming Esau. This is to teach us that when we go out to challenge the world and make it a more spiritual place, our spiritual entity, our soul, must stay connected to Him who has sent us out, the Holy One Blessed Be He.

"Please save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau." (Gen. 29:12)

The Zohar says this teaches us that appropriate prayer is to choose our words very carefully; make every word count. But Jacob had only one brother, therefore there are extra words here. Rabbi Moshe Alshich of Safed writes that the words "from the hands of my brother" are an honest admission of Jacob's guilt. He did commit a sin to Esau in relation to Isaac's blessings. Nevertheless, Jacob is saying, "Please help me!" The Ohr Hachaim takes it a step further, saying that Jacob was pointing out Esau's fault: "Esau wants to kill me! Save me from my brother's hands."

"And he passed before them, and he bowed seven times until he reached his brother." (Gen. 33:3)

What made Esau give in? Why did Jacob bow seven times? The Zohar says that the first "and he" was the Shechinah, and Esau became afraid, like Laban in last week's Torah portion. The Baal Haturim quotes the verse, "Seven times the tzaddik will fall and then rise" (Proverbs 24:16). It was all in order to remove seven levels of impurity from his own heart, to make himself purer and more righteous in G‑d's eyes.

Rebbe Michal of Zlotchov explains, citing a story about Rav Acha Ben Yaakov [Kiddushin 29b]:

He was once in a study hall, where an evil being that looked like a snake with seven heads appeared. Rav Acha bowed seven times, and each time one of the heads of the snake fell off. The seven bows negated the seven impure strengths of the snake. With Jacob our forefather, each obeisance was to draw down extra energy and strengthen one of his seven pure strengths. So why was Esau not vanquished completely? The answer is that because he was Jacob's twin brother, Esau's birth was also holy, and only his negative behavior had drawn him towards evil and entrapped him. Jacob's seven bows weakened Esau's seven negative strengths, leaving the Esau as he had been when he was born, Jacob's brother. Jacob bowed seven times until he reached his brother, disgarding all of the impurity, leaving only his brother. This is what the verse says, "And he ran to him and hugged him". (Gen.33:3) Nevertheless, it only lasted for a short time, as the verse continues, "That very day, Esau went on his way, to Seir." (Ibid.)

By strengthening our good qualities…we weaken the negative forces around us…

There are a few interesting teachings in this. Our battle with our opponents does not always have to be a direct confrontation. Sometimes by strengthening our good qualities and increasing our positive actions, we weaken the negative forces around us. Even more important is our reinterpretation of Jacob's attitude. His bowing was not a surrender by any means, but rather a distinct and successful part of his battle plan. Certainly part of his success was based on the wisdom of the famous Yiddish saying, translated: Think good and it'll be good; the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that this applies to all of life's challenges, but especially to illness. Be confident that the results will be good, not only in thought, but in speech and action too, and they will be.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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