Rabbi Raphael Katz
Former Rosh Kollel, Johannesburg 1998-2002
Rav of Beit Knesset Hechadash, Netanya
Parshat Vayetzeh seemingly concludes on a triumphant note – Yaakov has managed to escape from his ‘exile’ in Haran. He left “Eretz Yisrael” 22 years ago only with his staff and now he returns with “two camps”. On route to reunite with his father’s home, he is greeted by a camp of angels and names the place “Machanayim” – “Camps”.
The Malbim detects in Yaakov’s naming the place – “Camps”, in the plural, a sense of foreboding, of an imminent showdown that will transpire between the camp of Yaakov and that of Esav.
Parshat Vayishlach describes Yaakov sending messengers to “my lord to Esav” informing him of the formers’ arrival. To Yaakov’s dismay the messengers return with the news that Esav is “advancing towards him with four hundred men”.
It is clear that Esav was bent on waging war with Yaakov, but the gifts ,and humbling behavior of Yaakov, which included referring to Esav as “my lord” combined with bowing down seven times, affected a change in Esav’s initial response to Yaakov’s arrival.
Perhaps it can be suggested that the efficacy of Yaakov’s strategy is based on a psychological principle – it is easier for one to pity the misfortunate than be happy with the success of a colleague. Esav is capable of hugging a brother who he feels might be in a form of distress, but to acknowledge a brother who is successful and powerful only arouses antagonism and envy.
This is true of Esav of old and is true of the modern day “Esav” as well.
In his book, ‘The Zionist Revolution’, Professor Harold Fisch records the following:
“Professor David Flusser reports meeting with a Dutch Church television team in Jerusalem shortly after the war of 1967. They said openly how much more beautiful for them were the eyes of the Jews saved from Auschwitz than the proud looks of the soldiers whom they witnessed thanking G-d at the Wailing Wall.” [Page 120]
The above principle holds true for us as well.
The Ramban wrote that the mitzvah “You shall love your fellow as yourself” means, that one does not begrudge or be envious of his fellow’s success.
The paradigm of this type of behavior was Yonatan who removed all trace of envy from his heart and rejoiced at David’s success.