(4) Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, (5) and instructed them as follows, “Thus shall you say, ‘To my master Esau, thus says your servant Jacob: I stayed with Laban and remained until now; (6) I have acquired cattle, asses, sheep, and male and female slaves; and I send this message to my lord in the hope of gaining your favor.’” (7) The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau; he himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” (8) Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, (9) thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.” (10) Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Return to your native land and I will deal bountifully with you’! (11) I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. (12) Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else, I fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike. (13) Yet You have said, ‘I will deal bountifully with you and make your offspring as the sands of the sea, which are too numerous to count.’” (14) After spending the night there, he selected from what was at hand these presents for his brother Esau: (15) 200 she-goats and 20 he-goats; 200 ewes and 20 rams; (16) 30 milch camels with their colts; 40 cows and 10 bulls; 20 she-asses and 10 he-asses. (17) These he put in the charge of his servants, drove by drove, and he told his servants, “Go on ahead, and keep a distance between droves.” (18) He instructed the one in front as follows, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, ‘Whose man are you? Where are you going? And whose [animals] are these ahead of you?’ (19) you shall answer, ‘Your servant Jacob’s; they are a gift sent to my lord Esau; and [Jacob] himself is right behind us.’” (20) He gave similar instructions to the second one, and the third, and all the others who followed the droves, namely, “Thus and so shall you say to Esau when you reach him. (21) And you shall add, ‘And your servant Jacob himself is right behind us.’” For he reasoned, “If I propitiate him with presents in advance, and then face him, perhaps he will show me favor.” (22) And so the gift went on ahead, while he remained in camp that night.
Read these opening verses from this coming week's Torah portion. And think of these questions:
1. Do you remember why Yaakov was anxious to see his brother Esav? Do you remember why Esav was angry at Yaakov?
2. Why does Yaakov tell his messengers to refer to Esav as Yaakov's "master?" What does Yaakov hope will happen when his messengers meet Esav?
3. Why is Yaakov frightened when the messengers return and say that Esav is bringing 400 men with him to meet Yaakov?
4. After praying, Yaakov arranges to send gifts to Esav. What was he trying to accomplish?
When Esav and Yaakov finally meet, the embrace and kiss. Rashi quotes two opinions about whether or not their reunion was sincere. Which do you think is correct? What evidence from the story itself supports each option? If Esav was sincere in his embrace of Yaakov, what was it that made him overcome his hatred? If his embrace was not sincere, what kept them from reconciling?
Rashi mentions dots over one of the words of the Torah. Can you find it there?
Ibn Ezra provides proof that Esav and Yaakov had a sincere reconciliation. Do you agree with his argument?