Be wary of those who lay it on too thick

In Parshat Vayishlach, Esav seems overly excited about being reunited with his brother Yaakov who he has not seen for twenty years. This is surprising since they did not part on good terms. In Parshat Toldot, after Yitzchak blessed Yaakov (Breisheet 27:41) “Esav hated Yaakov because of the blessing with which his father blessed him. Esav said in his heart, ‘The mourning days for my father are approaching. I will then kill my brother, Yaakov.’”

We read how excited Esav is to see Yaakov in Breisheet 33:4, “Esav ran to meet him. He hugged him and fell on his neck and kissed him. They both wept.”

Many of the words used here to describe Esav’s behavior remind us of other emotional family reunions in the Torah. Nehama Leibowitz brings Benno Jacob’s list of similar meetings in the Torah:

Yaakov and Rachel: (Breishet 29:11) “And Yaakov kissed Rachel and lifted up his voice and wept.”

Yosef and Binyamin: (Breisheet 45:14) “And he (Yosef) fell on the neck of Binyamin, his brother and wept and Binyamin wept upon his neck.”

Yaakov and Yosef: (Breisheet 46:29) “And Yosef harnessed his chariot, and went up to greet his father, Yisrael in Goshen. When he appeared before him, he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck for a long time.”

Moshe and Aharon: (Shmot 4:27) “God said to Aharon, ‘Go meet Moshe in the desert.’ He (Aharon) went and met him at the mountain of God and he kissed him.”

Benno Jacob explains that the description of Esav’s running, embracing, falling, kissing and weeping is suspect. Yaakov can see through Esav. He does not believe that Esav is genuine and parts ways with him.

In all of the other cases, which were sincere reunions, one, two or three of the verbs were used. In Esav’s case all five were used!

We can learn from here that it is best to be upfront and honest. Someone who puts on an act will be regarded as suspect. There is no reason to lay it on so thick!

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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