Kenneth Cohen

A Kiss Or a Bite

There is a well known Midrash that describes the reunion between Yakov and Eisav. This is a very different explanation than what is understood from the text.

It appears that Yakov’s strategy of appeasement worked. The Torah makes it look like all was good. Eisav is so moved by Yakov’s generous gesture, that he embraces and kisses his twin brother.

The Midrash says that this was not the case at all. Eisav did not kiss his brother, but bit his neck. A miracle occurred and Yakov’s neck turned to stone.

So instead of identifying the crying of Eisav, as a sign of emotion, it may have been crying because of biting hard into stone!

What is most fascinating, is that the Baal Haturim proves the validity of the Midrash by way of Gematria. He found that the numerical value of וישקהו, “and he kissed him,” to be equal to the words, ולנשכו בא, “that he came to bite him.”

He also noted that the numerical value of the word, שיניו, “his teeth,” is equal to the name עשו, Eisav.

Now the Midrash does not seem so far fetched, thanks to the brilliant wisdom of the Baal Haturim.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at