The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Reflection of Intention

“He went ahead of them, he prostrated himself to the earth seven times, until he approached his brother. Esav ran to meet him. He hugged him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they both

[לג - ג-ד]

Please reference to these pesukim for the Ivrit - adding it in was not working at time of upload.

A superficial reading of these Pesukim raises the question of if Yaakov had already reached his brother, why did Esav need to run towards him?

There is a nuance in this Pasuk that should be noted. It reads “ad
gishto ad achiv”, until he reached until his brother,” whereas it would seem to be grammatically correct to say ad gishto el achiv, until he reached up to his brother.

This nuance provides the answer for the first question. If we were to look at Rivkah's words to Yaakov when she instructed him to go to Lavan we see that there seems to be a redundant Pasuk. First it says “ and remain with him until your brother's anger against you subsides”, then in the next Pasuk again it says “until your brother's anger against you subsides”. Some commentaries point out the second Pasuk lends itself to the translation “until the anger of your brother subsides from you”.
But how was Yaakov to know when Esav's anger had subsided?

They bring a Pasuk from Mishlei which says:

כמים הפנים לפנים כן לב האדם לאדם
“As in water face answers to face, so the heart of a man to a man.”
(Exact translation varies but the essence tends to remain the same.)

You can gauge how a person feels towards you by how you feel towards him. Rivkah was, therefore, saying, “Remain with him a short while until your brother's wraths subsides,” and you will know that this has happened “when the anger subsides from you,” i.e. when you no longer feel animosity towards him.
The Pasuk solves the problem with the Pesukim by Rivkah's words, but still does not appear to explain the problems written above.

Malbim writes on the Pasuk in Mishlei that as the heart pumps back into the system the blood it receives, thus maintaining life. Water reflects back to a person the countenance that he presents; and the heart reflects a person's thoughts and impulses, presaging good or evil results. So too a Talmid Torah will bring his community Heaven's blessings of abundance for the merit of sustaining him.
The Pasuk in Mishlei is telling us how to convert an adversary to a friend: do your utmost to feel positively towards him and the chances are he will begin to feel positively towards you. If you see him in a positive light your actions towards him are likely to be different just as your perception towards him has altered. When he associates positive behavior with you then he is much more likely to reciprocate positively to you.

When Yaakov saw Esav approaching, “he bowed earthward seven times,” from a distance, each time decreasing his anger towards Esav, “until he reached until his brother,” i.e. until he reached a feeling of brotherly affection for Esav. By following the Pasuk in Mishlei, he thereby caused Esav to feel positively toward him, so that “Esav ran towards him, embraced him, fell upon his neck and kissed him.”

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