Present, book, knife & Timna

present, book, knife in watercolor by Leora Wenger
According to R. Abraham Twerski, Abe Lincoln once said:
“I do not like that man very much. I should get to know him better.”

When my kids were in nursery school, they used to do this project that I loved. They would bring home a present, and inside the present was a paper book and a toy sword. Why? Keep reading.

In this week’s parsha of Vayishlach, Yaakov prepares to meet Esav, whom he has not seen in many years. Through messengers, Yaakov learns that Esav his brother still does not like him and is headed to see him with an army of 400 people. So what does Yaakov do to prepare? Rashi says he readied himself for three things: paying tribute (the present), prayer (the book, representing a siddur) or war (the sword or knife).

I’ve heard peaceniks and hawks both use this parsha to justify their approach to enemies. But I’m not sure Abe Lincoln’s quote really is valid for dealing with a whole nation of belligerents.

So who’s Timna? At the end of the parsha, it says: “And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bore to Eliphaz Amalek. ” Why is this relevant? According to Sanhedrin 99b, her son Amalek became the archenemy of Judaism because she had been rejected by Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as a convert. Rabbi Twerski suggests that even if they had needed to reject her, they could have done it in a nicer way.

So this parsha really does have a lot to say about war and enemies. You may have some ideas about how some of this could be relevant today. If I had to come up with some good idea, I would never be able to hit the ‘Publish’ button, so here’s the post as is.

 Ilana-Davita has more on settling disputes and this parsha.

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10 thoughts on “Present, book, knife & Timna

  • Paz and Robert, thanks for the comments!

    Robert, I think if we don’t protect ourselves, perhaps we are our own enemies. Unfortunately, as a Jew, last week we saw once again that we can be killed for merely being Jewish. So not bothering others don’t help us much. Or maybe I don’t really understand what you are trying to say.

    Paz, getting to know each other is often a good idea. Especially when both sides are willing to do so!

  • One of my favorite solutions when I can’t get along with someone on the internet is to meet them in real life. Almost everyone I meet is at least as nice in real life than on the net. The more obnoxious someone is on the net the more likely they behave better in real life.

    I wonder how many Amaleks we are creating now with all the fuss over exactly whose conversions are valid?

  • >The more obnoxious someone is on the net the more likely they behave better in real life

    Really? I guess once I find someone is obnoxious online, I stay away. Most of the people I continue to visit online are SO nice and SO polite.

  • I love the watercolor!

    Very interesting about the last part with Timna, they could have still been nice to her when rejecting her. I like that approach, I think it’s best to be nice to everyone, and that if your nice to the enemies then they won’t do so much bad against you. Like stories that by the holocaust, the non Jew neighbor saved the Jew because he would always say good morning to him and was nice to him.

  • >non Jew neighbor saved the Jew because he would always say good morning to him and was nice to him.
    Nice. I like that a lot! Glad you enjoy my watercolor.

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