For the last 150 years, there has been a move towards the nuclear family. Small family units replace the extended family of grandparents, parents, children grandchildren, cousins, and more. Often, people today lack community of any kind. Superficial relationships with work colleagues and neighbors replace community-oriented life, where a person's presence (or absence) in synagogue, one's health, well-being, etc. were noticed and dealt with. Rebbe Michil gives a very interesting insight on community life and how we can benefit from it.

When a person finds he has enemies, he should take it as a reflection of his own behavior….

Torah is not just a bunch of stories, but rather eternal lessons. One thing we learn from the story of Jacob and Esau is that a person must always be humble, because by being humble we will be liked by our neighbors. This is spelled out clearly in Orchot Tzadikim, one of the classic books of Jewish ethics, in "The Gateway of Will": '"When a person likes his peers and is liked by them, the Almighty likes him" (Avot 5:10), and even his enemies complete him (rather than deplete him), as it is written, 'When a person's ways are accepted by G‑d, even his enemies will compliment him' (Proverbs 6:7). Therefore, it is very important that when a person finds he has enemies, he should take it as a reflection of his own behavior. He must immediately look into his own deeds and return to G‑d".

The simple reasoning here is that, in the spiritual dimension, when a person sins he gives strength to the negative spiritual forces, which in turn share this strength with his enemies. The way to fix this is to do the opposite and give strength to the positive side. This depletes the strength of our enemies!

Esau was transformed into a friend and companion, rather than a bitter enemy….

This is what the verses in our Torah portion refer to, that in preparing to meet Esau, Jacob "…went before them [his wives and children]" (Gen. 33:4-5). Even though Jacob's family was holy and attached to holiness, he was on a higher level. How do we know this? Because he immediately identified the inner meaning of having an enemy in his brother: that he must examine his own actions and perfect himself. This caused him to go to an even higher spiritual level.

What caused Jacob to do this? He perceived Esau as a righteous person who was angry with him! "There must be some problematic issue within me," Jacob said to himself. Therefore, to open the discussion, he bowed seven times, indicating that he lowered himself seven levels to communicate with Esau in an appropriate way. When Jacob fully transformed himself, then the verse says, "…and Esau ran to meet him". Esau was transformed into a friend and companion, rather than a bitter enemy.

By responding with self-examination and repentance to the negative aspects in our lives, and thereby increasing the peace in our homes and workplaces, we will impact our lives for the better in obvious ways, and simultaneously weaken the power of those who seek our harm, G‑d forbid. May we merit the ultimate peace on the personal and universal scope with the Final Redemption, now.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul


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