The old expression, “blood is thicker than water,” is 100 percent relevant to this parsha. Certainly there are many commentaries and opinions from many of our great sages describing the reunion of Jacob and Esau.
Of all of those views, the one from Rashi stands out to me. Rashi was a great, phenomenal sage and human being. His outlook of the reunion between the two sons of Isaac and Rebecca is downright disturbing. Rashi describes Jacobs’s anticipation of his meeting with Esau noting Jacob’s fear that the two might do battle, resulting in Esau killing him or, worse, he killing Esau.
Jacob most certainly warranted these fears and worries. After 34 years, the possibility of Esau’s nature mellowing is valid, but judging from the Torah’s description of his demeanor, it’s highly unlikely.
How pitiful that such harsh, cold, but yet real animosity exits between two of the same blood, especially being accompanied by the expectation that the strife remains so strong after such a long period of over 10, 20 and 30 years. The origin of such pity should be strictly examined, since the Torah presents us with the details so we can learn and understand perhaps to take us away from similar “disturbing” situations that may face our lives.
Sibling rivalries are a common reality. Of course, a rivalry will go as far as the parties involved take it. A rivalry can be so fierce that it can be taken beyond just a rivalry. In fact rivalries have been known to result in all out hatred and, in some cases, war.
When a sibling rivalry reaches the extreme stage, the assumption is that an incident is responsible. Usually that’s true whether there has been a long standing feud, or never a peep out of either with each other since birth. Such was the case with Jacob and Esau. In fact, the only other time their sibling rivalry is mentioned in the Torah is their struggle within Rebecca’s womb.
Teachers of the Torah who have good intentions will certainly take issue with how I see these passages. I know what Esau was, and that Jacob is our father and patriarch. The way the passages are displayed in the Torah, though, there is no doubt implications are that Isaac and Rebecca have chosen favorite sons. Whatever he was, Esau deserved the love of both his parents, just as Yaacov did.
So when we read, reflect, and absorb the beginning part of Vayishlach the lesson may be that Jacob’s fear of Esau may never have exisisted had they both been taught better family values. Learning such a negative lesson from such great people may also teach us that any family matter that is similar and pending with us could suit us better to repair, rather then to keep continuing and reining strife and resentment in our own lives. No matter what the reasons are.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)