Present, book, knife & Timna
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.