Double concern…

Shabbat Kodesh Parshat Vayishlach

The Torah relates that upon hearing that Eisav was coming toward him with 400 men, Yaakov became very frightened and it distressed him. Rashi explains that the double expression regarding Yaakov’s fear teaches that he was afraid both that he may be killed and that he may kill others should Eisav attack him. It is natural to understand why Yaakov would be afraid of being killed. However, as the law is (Sanhedrin 72a) that one may kill a pursuer in self-defence, 

הַבָּא לְהֹרְגְךָ הַשְׁכֵּם לְהָרְגוֹ

Why was he afraid of killing others?

This parable can help explaining it: A king had a very capable astronomer, who helped him to forecast the future. As in the old days so often, someone in the court of the king disliked the astronomer and the king became convinced that he must kill the astronomer. The astronomer heard the rumour about the king’s plan to “liquidate” him, and during their next meeting, the king asked his astronomer- counsellor, “what do you see for the near future ?” to which the astronomer replied : “I can see that your majesty and myself – we will both die on the very same day….” 

Needless to say that the king postponed indefinitely the plan to kill the astronomer.

Now back to the Parsha. The Maharil Diskin (Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Yehuda LeibDiskin , 1818–1898) says by citing Rashi, who writes (27:45) that Rivkahprophetically declared that her two sons – Yaakov and Eisav – would both die on the same day. 

גם שניכם. אִם יָקוּם עָלֶיךָ וְאַתָּה תַּהַרְגֶנּוּ יַעַמְדוּ בָנָיו וְיַהַרְגוּךָ; וְרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ נִזְרְקָה בָהּ וְנִתְנַבְּאָה שֶׁבְּיוֹם א’ יָמוּתוּ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁמְּפֹרָשׁ בְּפֶרֶק הַמְקַנֵּא לְאִשְׁתּוֹ

As a result, Yaakov was afraid that if he was attacked, he may end up killing Eisav, which would lead to his own immediate death. 

And thus, it becomes clear why Yaakov wanted Eisav to live long…

Best regards and Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld