Parsh for the Table
Vol 2 Issue 8
Don't trust your kindergarten teacher!
I have a lot of respect for pre-school teachers. But sometimes they just get it wrong. Just because they can't imagine how a rectangular vessel can float doesn't mean Noah's ark was a houseboat. The same holds true with the tablets of the 10 commandments, they were not rounded off. (That misconception is Michelangelo's fault.)
So we come to the famous hug and kiss between Yaacov and Eisav. (perek 33, pasuk 4). Dots on top of the וישקהו, and then crying. So we are quoted the Midrash that Eisav tried to bite Yaacov's neck and kill him and Hashem hardened his neck; Yaacov cries because his neck hurts; Eisav because his teeth hurt. (That's what I was taught.) But the midrash doesn't talk about the crying; why they cried is my morah's assumption. She may be right, but I suspect something more profound is happening.
The original partnership that Yitzchak planned was for Yaacov to be involved in Torah, and Eisav involved in business providing for Yaacov. This would have been the ultimate plan for the universe, except for one problem. Eisav proved that someone only involved in the world has no chance against the יצר הרע. So Yaacov has to add to his job of learning Torah the job of making a living. (Now you know why the decision of Torah verses Parnasa is so complicated; it never should have been this way.)
For one moment in history, when Eisav is about to embrace Yaacov, it seems that Eisav was finally able to rise above his demons and take his proper place in Klal Yisrael. But ultimately, he couldn't. His last minute-decision to kill Yaacov is a gut-wrenching failure, at a moment when there seemed to be so much promise.
When it is clear that someone chooses not to live up to his purpose of existence, not to reach true fulfillment of his life; that is a real tragedy. Not only Yaacov cries, but so does Eisav…. so does Eisav.