Parshat Vayishlach – How to live in two worlds at once.

There is a moment when Ya’akov and Eisav (temporarily) reconcile, after twenty years of animosity that we think that everything is water under the bridge. Eisav suggests the entourages of the two brothers travel together, to which Ya’akov declines. The sadness of the moment is not simply confined to the physical distance that remains, but in fact of a cosmic opportunity that was ultimately never realised between the two of them.

We have mentioned in previous weeks that Eisav predilection the ‘field’ and Ya’akov’s to the tent derived from both Avraham and Yitzchak. At the beginning of parshat Vayera, the Torah tells us that Avraham was sitting in the entrance of the tent. In other sources he is compared to a mountain – immovable and imposing. By contrast, in parashat Chayei Sarah, Yitzchak goes into the field and subsequently digs wells – a man of action.

While we know events occurred in certain way because of Rivka’s prophecy, what was Yitzchak’s plan? How did he propose to resolve the diametrically opposed personalities of his children?

While most commentators agree that Yitzchak knew Eisav for who he truly was, he nonetheless was prepared to engage with him despite his failings. Yitzchak envisioned that Ya’akov would remain the man of tents, the man of learning, spirituality and elevation, while Eisav would support him by being the individual in the field and both brothers profiting from business much in the way Yissachar and Zevulun would do after them.

What is interesting to see is that Yitzchak’s paradigm of harmony between the two outlooks not only came to fruition with Yissachar and Zevulun, but also within Ya’akov himself. After the encounter with Eisav, the Torah relates that he arrived ‘shalem’ – whole. Rashi elaborates that he was whole on three counts, physically, after the exertions with the angel, financially, after the gifts he had sent to Eisav, and spiritually, after all the years by Lavan.

Subsequently, we are told that he bought a field in which he placed his tent. It is that synthesis which Yitzchak intended. It is also that same synthesis which we are obligated to find, by fusing the positives of both worlds into one sophisticated and meaningful blueprint in the service of the Almighty and our nation.


About the Author
David Gross was born in Geneva and grew up in London. He graduated from UCL in 2010 with a B.A. in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He has previously served as Southern Fieldworker of Bnei Akiva UK. He has studied and taught in Yeshivat HaKotel, and currently teaches in Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi. He will be starting an MBA at Bar Ilan in the coming academic year.
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