Vayishlach: Preparing for War

Three-Step Process

In Torah portion, Vayishlach, twins Jacob and Esau meet for the first time after a long estrangement. The last time the brothers were together, Esau threatened to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright. Now, Jacob hopes the passage of time has mellowed Esau’s hatred, but in case his brother is still considering fratricide, Jacob prepares carefully for the reunion. Our Sages teach that the three actions Jacob takes provide the model for how to battle our enemies: appease, pray, prepare for war.

Jacob prepares for war by strategically dividing his large retinue into two camps: “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.” (Gen. 32:9). He prays: “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother….” (Gen. 32:12). He appeases by sending gifts: “[Jacob] selected from what was at hand these presents for his brother Esau….” (Gen 32:14).

Most people, thankfully, are not literally going to war, but all of us fight  internal battles against our own evil inclination (yetzer hara). Maybe you’re battling a tendency to overeat. You can achieve your dietary goals and lose weight by following Jacob’s example. Prepare for war: re-route your daily walk to avoid the ice cream parlor. Pray: ask God for help to avoid fattening foods. Appease: splurge on a delicious sushi dinner as a reward for avoiding dessert at lunch.

May we all achieve great success in battling our enemies, both without and within!

Image: “Meeting Between Esau and Jacob” by Giovanni Bottala, 1636

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