Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky

Physical and Spiritual Danger - the Legacy of Eisav

As Yaakov anticipates a dangerous reunion with Eisav, he calls out to Hashem for assistance. He beseeches Hashem to, "Rescue me from my brother, from Eisav". This prayer appears to be redundant since "my brother" is Eisav. The Beis HaLeivi commenst that Yaakov was actually asking Hashem for assistance in facing two different kinds of danger. Eisav poses as a physical threat to anyone he encounters when he appears as the personality of Eisav HaRasha. Yaakov had experienced this danger twenty years earlier when he was forced to flee for his life. Upon hearing that Eisav was coming to meet him with an army of four hundred men, Yaakov was presented with a very real threat of physical harm.

There was an entirely different danger that also frightened Yaakov. After so many years, perhaps Eisav had softened his position towards Yaakov. Could it be that Eisav was ready to approach Yaakov as a brother? Such a reunion posed an entirely different type of threat to the existence of Yaakov and his family. To become too close to a brother such as Eisav and expose his family to the lifestyle and values of an Eisav could spiritually destroy the foundation of the Jewish people. It was this dual danger that prompted Yaakov to request assistance in the manner that he did. "Rescue me from my borther", i.e. protect me from the dangers of a close relationship that could be spiritually devastating. "Rescue me from Eisav", i.e. protect me from physical harm that Eisav HaRasha may want to inflict upon me.

These two threats that faced Yaakov would constantly resurface through out Jewish history. There were times when the Jewish people faced the dangers of Eisav HaRahsa, the threat of physical annihilation. There were other times when the danger was subtler in the form of being lured into assimilation by those who appeared as our brothers.

Chanukah and Purim, the two festivals instituted by Chazal to commemorate the miraculous rescue of the Jewish People, celebrate two different aspect of our ongoing clash with the outside world. Our enemies at the time of Purim appeared as Eisav HaRasha, intent on physically destroying us. At the time of Chanukah, the assault against us was by those claiming to be "brothers" - by those who sought to befriend us by having us join their culture. In each instance the call to Hashem was different. "Rescue us from our brother" - save us from those who try to lure us into their lifestyle, "Rescue us from Eisav" - save us from those who try to annihilate us physically. Just as we constantly remain on guard against our physical enemies, let us remain on guard against our spiritual enemies and with Siyata D'Shmaya (heavenly help) be able to overcome all the dangers that may confront us.

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