Kenneth Cohen

Confrontation vs. Diplomacy

There is some debate concerning Yakov Avinu’s approach in his dealing with Eisav. Many commentators felt that it wasn’t right the manner in which Yakov humbled himself before his brother.

He referred to Eisav as אדוני, my master, numerous times. There are opinions that there were even subtle punishments to Yakov for this approach. A righteous Jew should not lower himself before an evil person like Eisav.

It is interesting to note that Yakov’s descendant, Mordechai, had a completely different approach in dealing with Eisav’s descendant, Haman. Mordechai would not bow to this Jew hater, and certainly, showed him no respect.

Both approaches have their detractors. Even when Mordechai emerged as the hero of the Purim story, his strategy in dealing with Haman, was questioned.

The last verse of the Megilla says that he was appreciated by, “most of his brothers.” The Talmud in Masechet Megilla explained that there were still many Jews who felt that Mordechai was wrong in his confrontational approach. He should have chosen Yakov Avinu’s style of diplomacy, even at the price of being humiliated.

The Orchot Tzaddikim speaks of the importance of humility and the dangers of arrogance. His opinion is that the exception to this rule, is how we deal with evil. We are temporarily permitted to throw our humility aside, and fight evil head on, even though we may look arrogant in the process.

This debate of confrontation verses diplomacy still exists today and how we deal with our enemies. It seems to me that after two thousand years of exile, it is time that we hold our heads high. We must do what we must for our survival, without apologies to anyone!

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