Vayishlach - Yaacov, the first Jedi Knight.

What must it have felt like to be Yaacov early in the morning on the day he met Esav again?

He had just endured a physically exhausting fight with a stranger - perhaps, according to Rashi, Esav's guardian angel, who assaulted him all the while, in the guise of a man.

They've fought all night.

Yaacov is no youngster either. He is close to 100 years of age.

Dawn has broken and the only way the "man" can prevail is by aggressively kicking Yaacov in the thigh, to the point that he has dislocating his hip.

Yaacov has been renamed Yisrael and he has little time to think of the consequences becuase he's in pain. Deep, deep pain.

Now, he limps wearily towards his twin brother who is standing across the plain accompanied by 400 strongmen.

The last time they were in the same location, 22 years earlier, he about to run for his life, escaping a death sentence.

Now, he has no idea how Esav, a volatile character, will react when they finally meet mano a mano - hand to hand.

Yaacov bows seven times until he reaches Esav.

No doubt, he is both physically and emotionally drained.

Esav rushes up to him and they embrace - although the Rabbis note the dots over the word "vayishakehu" - Esav kissed Yaacov - some believe that he tried to bite his brother's neck and there was little sincerity in the action - others hold that (at least according to Rashi), Esav's hatred for his brother was overtaken by merciful emotions and his heart dictated his actions.

So here we are, the ultimate reunion. Brothers together. Old scores laid aside. At last peace has prevailed.

Now, reverse the role.

You are Esav, surrounded by your henchmen and about to see your twin brother again. He's really laid it on thickly.

Hundreds of animals as gifts - just read the list of what Yaacov had sent the previous night, to assuage his brother's unpredictable behaviour:

(טו) עִזִּ֣ים מָאתַ֔יִם וּתְיָשִׁ֖ים עֶשְׂרִ֑ים רְחֵלִ֥ים מָאתַ֖יִם וְאֵילִ֥ים עֶשְׂרִֽים׃ (טז) גְּמַלִּ֧ים מֵינִיק֛וֹת וּבְנֵיהֶ֖ם שְׁלֹשִׁ֑ים פָּר֤וֹת אַרְבָּעִים֙ וּפָרִ֣ים עֲשָׂרָ֔ה אֲתֹנֹ֣ת עֶשְׂרִ֔ים וַעְיָרִ֖ם עֲשָׂרָֽה׃

(15) 200 she-goats and 20 he-goats; 200 ewes and 20 rams; (16) 30 nursing camels with their colts; 40 cows and 10 bulls; 20 she-asses and 10 he-asses.

That's quite a gift!

And here he is, watching his brother bowing down to him, not once, not twice but seven times.

His brother, the one who tricked their father, took the blessings that were undoubtedly his and fled, like a coward in the night.

Look how the tables have turned!

What else can Esav do but show magnanimity to his younger sibling?

So reacts by running towards Yaacov, embraces him, falls on his neck and kisses him. All is forgiven. The hunted and his hunter have indeed reunited.

How would you act if you were Esav at this moment?

What would you do to build bridges?

(יב) וַיֹּ֖אמֶר נִסְעָ֣ה וְנֵלֵ֑כָה וְאֵלְכָ֖ה לְנֶגְדֶּֽךָ׃
(12) And [Esau] said, “Let us start on our journey, and I will proceed at your pace.”

After a discussion, is this not a logical suggestion?

Esav is willing to accompany his brother back home (wherever home may now be)

Yaacov defers:

(יג) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֗יו אֲדֹנִ֤י יֹדֵ֙עַ֙ כִּֽי־הַיְלָדִ֣ים רַכִּ֔ים וְהַצֹּ֥אן וְהַבָּקָ֖ר עָל֣וֹת עָלָ֑י וּדְפָקוּם֙ י֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד וָמֵ֖תוּ כָּל־הַצֹּֽאן׃ (יד) יַעֲבָר־נָ֥א אֲדֹנִ֖י לִפְנֵ֣י עַבְדּ֑וֹ וַאֲנִ֞י אֶֽתְנָהֲלָ֣ה לְאִטִּ֗י לְרֶ֨גֶל הַמְּלָאכָ֤ה אֲשֶׁר־לְפָנַי֙ וּלְרֶ֣גֶל הַיְלָדִ֔ים עַ֛ד אֲשֶׁר־אָבֹ֥א אֶל־אֲדֹנִ֖י שֵׂעִֽירָה׃
(13) But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; if they are driven hard a single day, all the flocks will die. (14) Let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I travel slowly, at the pace of the cattle before me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

Esav then tries another attempt at reconciliation:

(טו) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר עֵשָׂ֔ו אַצִּֽיגָה־נָּ֣א עִמְּךָ֔ מִן־הָעָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתִּ֑י וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לָ֣מָּה זֶּ֔ה אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵ֥י אֲדֹנִֽי׃

(15) Then Esau said, “Let me assign to you some of the men who are with me.”

To which Yaacov replies:

(טו) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר עֵשָׂ֔ו אַצִּֽיגָה־נָּ֣א עִמְּךָ֔ מִן־הָעָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתִּ֑י וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לָ֣מָּה זֶּ֔ה אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵ֥י אֲדֹנִֽי׃

But he said, “Oh no, my lord is too kind to me!”

Having been rebuffed twice, we read that:

(טז) וַיָּשָׁב֩ בַּיּ֨וֹם הַה֥וּא עֵשָׂ֛ו לְדַרְכּ֖וֹ שֵׂעִֽירָה׃ (יז) וְיַעֲקֹב֙ נָסַ֣ע סֻכֹּ֔תָה וַיִּ֥בֶן ל֖וֹ בָּ֑יִת וּלְמִקְנֵ֙הוּ֙ עָשָׂ֣ה סֻכֹּ֔ת עַל־כֵּ֛ן קָרָ֥א שֵׁם־הַמָּק֖וֹם סֻכּֽוֹת׃ (ס)
(16) So Esau started back that day on his way to Seir. (17) But Jacob journeyed on to Succoth, and built a house for himself and made stalls for his cattle; that is why the place was called Succoth.

A simple reading of the text is puzzling. Why would Yaacov refuse these peaceful overtures from his brother. Why not follow the logical path of reconciliation and work to rebuild the relationship with his brother?

It was one of the seminal moments in cinema history.

Luke Skywalker was hanging onto a gangway for dear life, stretching over a deep drop into the cosmos, having just had his arm severed by the brutal swipe of Darth Vader's lightsabre.

Our hearts were in our mouths. What would happen next?

Lord Vader says the following:

Vader: "There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you. Luke, you do not yet realise your importance. You've only begun to discover your power. Join me and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."

Luke: "I'll never join you"

Vader: "If you only knew the power of the dark side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father."

Luke: "He told me enough. He told me you killed him."

Vader: "No, I am your father"

Luke: "No, no, that's not true. That's impossible."

Vader: "Search your feelings and you know it to be true.

Luke "No, no"

Vader: ".....join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son...."

What stopped Luke from participating in this unexpected family reunion? His sworn enemy, the man who had minutes before tried to kill him, was now offering him a safety net and even more impressively, world domination!

What stopped Yaacov from joining his brother, albeit with less of an ambition and even going to the point of rejecting his generous offer of a new coterie of bodyguards?

In both cases, the answer is a choice - to weigh up the advantages of making "peace" with the danger of being influenced by a force (pun intended) that would destroy his inner moral compass.

Our Rabbis tell us that the reason Yaakov declined Esav's first offer was because he knew that this reunion could only be short-lived and that soon enough, Esav would return to type.

Yaacov wanted to conclude the meeting as soon as possible. Luke similarly jumps into the abyss because he knows that although it would be more advantageous to join Vader on his power-trip, in the end, he will be overtaken by the same forces that destroyed Anakin Skywalker and led to his transmogrification into the monster that has become Darth Vader.

Luke has started his training with Yoda as a Jedi Knight. He isn't about to join the ranks of the Sith!

Similarly so, Yaacov is also a Jedi (albeit a Jewish one - there's a joke about his sister Leia being a Druish Princess, but I won't go there!) fighting the inevitable evil that would emanate from Esav, ancestor of the Edomites and ultimately the Romans who would destroy the Beit Hamikdash many centuries later).

We all have choices that we can make in life, regarding the decisions we take, but ultimately, the people we choose to become our friends.

William J.H. Boetcker, an American Presbyterian Minister famously wrote:

"A man is judged by the company he keeps"

The quote continues:

""and a company is judged by the men it keeps, and the people of Democratic nations are judged by the type and caliber of officers they elect.".

Yaacov was one of our founding fathers, a man whose every action would be reflected in the behaviour of his decendents. At this critical moment in his and our history, despite his pain and weariness, he knew which choice to make and how this would impact on us, his progeny.

That he didn't let his brother lead him astray speaks volumes about the lessons we can learn from his example.

Like Luke Skywalker, he truly was a Jedi Knight - using the Force to maintain harmony both is his generation and ours.

Shabbat Shalom and may the Force be with you!