Confronting Our Enemies
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In this week’s
portion, Yaakov discovers that his brother Esav is coming to confront him. From
the moment Yaakov took the blessings that had originally been earmarked for Esav
(Bereshis 27), this confrontation was inevitable.
messages and overtures to Esav provide an invaluable lesson as to how we must
confront our enemies, both those who wish to decimate us spiritually, and those
who wish to decimate us physically.
first sends a subtle message to Esav: “I have lived with Lavan” (Bereshis
32:5). Lavan was Yaakov’s father in law, with whom he had worked and lived for
the last twenty years. Lavan was an extremely immoral person, a liar, a cheat,
and a thief. The word in Hebrew for I lived is “gartey”. The same letters
can also be spelled out to say “taryag” which is not a word, but a number,
six hundred and thirteen. This is the amount of commandments that appear in the
was telling Esav, “not only have I served Hashem when I was completely
immersed in Torah, but although I have lived in exile with an immoral person
like Lavan, I still observed all the commandments of the Torah. I did not
compromise my beliefs.”
message resonated on two fronts. The first one was that Yaakov had many merits
for his years of devotion to Hashem and Esav should not think his observance
slacked off while with Lavan. The second front was that Yaakov was telling Esav,
“don’t think you will be successful in your attempts to assimilate me. I
survived Lavan, and I will survive you.”
in addition to sending this message, prepared in three ways: with tribute,
prayer and preparation to fight.
us focus on Yaakov’s preparation for prayer.
of the three forefathers instituted a time of prayer (Brochos 26b). Avraham
instituted Shacharis, the morning prayer service. Rabbi Munk explains that this
reflected on Avraham’s life and service to Hashem. Just like the morning,
Avraham’s spreading of monotheism was a flash of brightness after the darkness
of idolatry. The morning service is filled with praises to Hashem, as Avraham
spread praise of Hashem to thousands of adherents.
instituted Mincha, the afternoon service. This is the shortest of the three
services. The time for Mincha, before nightfall, is the most fearful time of the
day, because it is filled with uncertainty: how will the night be, how shall we
get through it? Yitzchok lived in such a time. He knew Yaakov was to undergo
much suffering. Thus, Mincha is the shortest of the three prayers. There is only
one prayer praising G-d as a lead in to the intense “Shemoneh Esrei”, when
we stand before G-d as a servant beseeches his master.
instituted Ma’ariv, the evening prayer service. When a person faces
punishment, the waiting time - the time before the person actually knows the
sentence - is the worst time. It is
often worse than the punishment itself. Ma’ariv is prayed with a strong
conviction that, though it is now dark, Hashem will be with us and redeem us
from this this exile just as He has been with us and redeemed us from previous
reflected on Yaakov’s life. Yaakov underwent much more suffering that Avraham
and Yitzchok, yet through this suffering, he knew that Hashem was with Him.