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November 25, 2012 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayislach

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob more or less reconciles with Esau.   The Torah notes that the confrontation began when Jacob “bowed low to the ground seven times until he was near his brother.” (Gen. 33:3).

Sarna notes that Jacob’s conduct “is the exact reversal of the blessing that Jacob extracted from his father and that led to his flight from Esau’s wrath” (in particular referring to 27:29, which states that “let your mother’s sons bow to you.”)   While Jacob deceived his way into his father’s blessing that Esau would bow to him, he “gives back” this potential gain by bowing to Esau instead.

And while the brothers might at first have thought that Jacob’s deceit might make him richer, Jacob makes up for it with gifts; Sarna points out that the phrase Jacob uses in making the gift (berakhah) is the same phrase Isaac uses in giving his blessing to Jacob.

And by taking the blessing, Jacob has in a sense taken honor away from Esau; Jacob’s parents might have perceived him, rightly or wrongly, as the alpha male of the family.  Jacob makes up for that too by honoring Esau, saying “to see your face is like seeing the face of God” (33:10).

By wheedling blessings and birthrights out of his parents and Esau, Jacob did not just take a blessing, but (perhaps) made Esau think that he was taking property and honor that Esau (thinks he) deserved.  In his behavior, Jacob gives blessing, property and honor back to Esau, truly making up for his prior misconduct.   In this case, he is a role model of how to make up for past sins.

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