Pinny Arnon

Working For Peace and Preparing For War

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

When Jacob encounters his brother Esau after two decades of conflict and alienation, he declares “your face is like the face of God” (Genesis 33:10). This shocking statement disarms Esau completely. Though Esau approached his brother with 400 soldiers intending to battle, Jacob showed him his inner Godliness, his ultimate reality, and this transformed Esau instantaneously from the villain he had been to the Godly being that he had the potential to be.

Jacob saw the divine presence even within the wicked Esau. Others did not see it there – even Esau himself did not see it there. It takes one as refined as Jacob to have such penetrating vision. Jacob understood, through all of his travails – through his wrestling with the good and the “bad” of the world – that everything is, in its deepest essence, Godliness. And by seeing it in Esau, by pointing it out to him, Jacob was able to bring it out in him.

This is the mission that God assigns His children – to reveal the Godly essence that exists in the core of every single aspect of creation. Our hope and goal is that bringing one’s essential divinity to her/his awareness will awaken her/his inherent kindness and goodness, and that even if we were previously enemies, we can thereafter live together in peace. When one recognizes that the Godliness within each of us is one and the same, then all hatred will dissolve and all conflict will cease.

Yet it is important to note that immediately prior to encountering Esau, Jacob separated his camp in preparation for battle. He went ahead of his family to protect them, as Rashi comments, “if that wicked man comes to fight, let him fight me first” (Rashi on Genesis 33:3). In other words, though Jacob’s intention was to transform his brother by helping him to see his inner Godliness, he understood that his efforts might not bear their desired effect. Though God is embedded in the core of every one of His creations, some (and perhaps most, unfortunately) are unable to penetrate their thick exterior to perceive their innermost truth.

Jacob teaches us that it is our most sacred duty and purpose to nurture our common humanity and to help the world to understand our fundamental divine unity. Yet if one is unresponsive to our efforts to coexist peacefully, then it is our duty to protect ourselves and others from their aggression and violence, as the Sages of the Talmud teach, “if someone is coming to kill you, rise against him and kill him first” (Sanhedrin, 72a).

Jacob’s ability to pacify his wicked brother Esau provides us hope that even our sworn enemies can ultimately be transformed. It is our eternal prayer that we will soon be able to lay down our arms, that we will no longer be forced to defend ourselves, and that nation will no longer lift up sword against nation.

Derived from Pnei Hashem, an introduction to the deepest depths of the human experience based on the esoteric teachings of Torah.

About the Author
Pinny Arnon is an award-winning writer in the secular world who was introduced to the wellsprings of Torah as a young adult. After decades of study and frequent interaction with some of the most renowned Rabbis of the generation, Arnon has been encouraged to focus his clear and incisive writing style on the explication of the inner depths of Torah.
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