This week’s Parsha is Parsha Vayishlach when Yaakov comes back to his hometown, the Holy Land (Israel), after being in Charan for twenty years. He sends angels to Eisav, his twin brother, in the hope that he might repair the relationship between them. The angels, however, report to Yaakov that Eisav is planning for war against him, with 400 armed soldiers.
Therefore, Yaakov prepares for war, prays to Hashem, and sends Eisav a large gift to placate him. The Parsha goes on to describe Yaakov’s journey to Eisav, the prince of Shechem’s kidnapping of Yaakov’s daughter Dina, and Rachel’s death while giving birth to Binyamin.
But let’s discuss Yaakov sending an angel to deliver a message to Eisav. In the message, he told the angels to mention that he was coming from having “temporarily lived in Lavan’s house — עם לבן גרתי.” Sounds like a harmless fact, but it’s not clear why Eisav would care to know this.
Rashi informs us that Sages see in his words another parallel message. The word גרתי has the numerical value of תרי׳׳ג — as in the 613 mitzvot — implying that he still followed the 613 mitzvot, and living with Lavan didn’t negatively influence him.
Here, we have a different issue. Why would Yaakov think that Eisav would care about his determination to follow the mitzvot and the Torah while living with Lavan?
It turns out that two messages actually work together. The basic message Yaakov wanted to convey to Eisav is: “Don’t worry, brother…remember the whole blessing fiasco that you got upset about? It didn’t work out in the end. I don’t own any real estate. I was basically just mooching off of my father-in-law — nothing to be jealous of.” From the perspective of physical wealth, there’s nothing to write home about.
But here’s what his deeper message was: “Don’t think that I’m push-over, though. While I lived in Lavan’s house, away from mom and dad, on my own, I still kept all the mitzvot.”
We learn from Yaakov how to communicate in a sophisticated way. President Theodore Roosevelt was fond of a West African proverb, "Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far." The best way of showing that you’re tough is not always to act tough. Your resilience and strength is often better conveyed beneath the surface.
In our war with Hamas and amidst the threat of Jew-haters around the world, like Yaakov our forefather, we can draw strength from the fact that we keep the mitzvot no matter the circumstances. This is the spiritual that should give us courage in the face of all of our enemies.
By: Abigail Eliav (10th)