Weekly Torah Parshat Vayishlach

וַיִּירָ֧א יַעֲקֹ֛ב מְאֹ֖ד וַיֵּ֣צֶר ל֑וֹ וַיַּ֜חַץ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם אֲשֶׁר־אִתּ֗וֹ וְאֶת־הַצֹּ֧אן וְאֶת־הַבָּקָ֛ר וְהַגְּמַלִּ֖ים לִשְׁנֵ֥י מַחֲנֽוֹת׃ 

We will read this week that upon learning that Eisav is coming towards him with 400 “people” with him “Yaakov became very frightened and was distressed; so he divided the people who were with him and the flocks and the cattle and the camels into two camps. [And he explained]  “If Esau comes to one camp and strikes it down, the remaining camp will escape.”

Interestingly, a few weeks ago we read that G-d said to Avraham Avinu

אַחַ֣ר  הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה הָיָ֤ה דְבַר־ה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם בַּֽמַּחֲזֶ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר אַל־תִּירָ֣א אַבְרָ֗ם אָנֹכִי֙ מָגֵ֣ן לָ֔ךְ שְׂכָרְךָ֖ הַרְבֵּ֥ה מְאֹֽד׃ 

After these incidents, the word of G-D came to Avram in a vision, saying, “FearAvraham; I am your Shield; your reward is exceedingly great.”

So – when Avraham Avinu feared (retribution from the kings he had just defeated) Hashem reassured him: Do not Fear.  In Yaakov’s case however, there is no “response” at all to his fears, and he is being left to prepare himself for the encounter (offering a gift to Eisav, praying, and getting ready to fight as a last resort…) Can we see a reason why Avraham was reassured by G-D and Yaakov was not? 

Perhaps – the difference is between a “fear” and a “constructive fear“!

Avraham Avinu was afraid of something that was never going to happen. The kings were either not capable or did not intend to reopen the war with him. And so, Hashem is reassuring him: “do not fear”. The fear was a “waste of energy” for Avraham Avinu. 

In Yaakov’s case, the fear was justified and positive. It drove him to prepare himself in the three ways (mentioned above). This is a “constructive fear” which lead to action. The fear was instrumental in defusing the long standing tension between Yaakov Avinu and Eisav!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld