Vayishlach: Eisav’s Permission

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    • Tzvi Chulsky 8 months ago

      Yaakov’s first action upon entering the Land of Israel is to reach out to Eisav and secure his goodwill. In his message, he makes sure to list what he has (viz. oxen, donkeys, sheep, male and female servants) [1] so that Eisav can see that it has nothing to do with his stolen blessing [2].

      This is a description of Jewish behavior upon reentry to the Land of Israel: we always secure the permission of non-Jewish powers, with bribes as necessary. God did not have Moshe just tell us to leave Egypt without asking, although He easily could have drowned the pursuing Egyptians in the sea in that scenario as well; it took ten plagues to get permission from Pharaoh, but it was obtained. We returned after the first exile with the permission of Cyrus the Great. And, most recently, we secured the approval of the League of Nations and then the UN before forming the current State of Israel.

      The great powers of the world are not moral, and are not pleasant to deal with; but deal with them we must as we grow from Yaakov—our name in galut, when we do not control our own circumstances—to Israel, our name in our own land, when we do.

      Thankfully, we are past that point now; while Eisav, who was comfortable with a limping Yaakov, has gotten much less friendly now that we are standing on our own two feet [3], we are no longer asking permission. But the long road ahead to teaching Eisav our ways and improving his life remains very much our concern, largely still out of reach until we get our own house in order.

      In our ברכת המזון, we say ונמצא חן ושכל טוב בעיני אלקים ואדם. It is important that we find favor and good understanding in the eyes of man, but may God always come first.

      [1] Breishit 32:5
      [2] which had been entirely agricultural and had not included servants or livestock; see Breishit 27:28
      [3] In 2020, the same UN that originally approved Israel passed 17 resolutions against Israel; for comparison, there were 6 resolutions total for the rest of the world that year—one each against North Korea, Iran, Syria and Myanmar; and two against Russia regarding Crimea.

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