My mother recently spent two Shabboses (Shabbatot) with us here in Israel. In her honour, I actually put together an unprecedented TWO divrei Torah in a row. This is the second one, which was not too fancy because I was just planning to say it over privately over lunch but then we ended up having guests, and I think it went over nicely. Sorry it’s too late for this year – I was too busy visiting to post!
Last week’s parsha, Vayeitzei, ended in sort of a cliff-hanger, as Yaakov set off to reunite with his brother Eisav. As this week’s parsha opens, we see that Yaakov is preparing for his meeting with Eisav – and he is very, very afraid.
This fear reminds us, as it should, of several parshiyos from now, when the shevatim go down to Mitzrayim and are afraid of Yosef when they realize who they have been dealing with there.
There are many similarities here anyway: parting on bad terms, a separation of decades, a reversal of fortunes (Yaakov, the mild-mannered son, has become the leader of a large family and a person of great wealth; Yosef, the wimpy little prognosticator, has become the ruler of Egypt.).
Here’s another similarity: When Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, וַיִּתֵּן אֶת-קֹלוֹ, בִּבְכִי, “he wept aloud.” And Eisav, too, the big bad Eisav, bursts out in tears, as it says, וַיִּבְכּֽוּ, - and they wept. Both of them. All of the other similarities between these stories suggest that Eisav, too, is sincere, at least in that moment (though a midrash goes on to say he bit Yaakov’s neck).
But an earlier question must be asked: why is Yaakov afraid when Hashem says not to be? Hashem has already said go back to eretz Yisrael וְאֵיטִ֥יבָה עִמָּֽךְ: / and I’ll make it good for you.
To understand this,