Jacob Peace and War

November 27, 2023, Israel


Each week we read a portion of the Torah (Hebrew Bible, the Five Books of Moses) this week we begin with our patriarch Jacob (Yaakov) preparing to meet his long-estranged brother Esau. The two had never seen eye to eye, were very different in character and the last time they had seen each other, Esau had vowed to kill his brother Jacob. Now as Jacob is returning to his homeland, the land of Israel which we are still contesting today for some bizarre reason, he hears that his brother is coming out to "greet" him, and naturally he is concerned. Note: There were no so called "Palestinians" and there were only a few nomadic Arabs. 

As Jacob approached the land of his father, fear of his brother revived in him. He therefore made a threefold preparation: Prayer to God, appeasement, and battle. Battle of course was difficult, if not totally impossible, one man with 4 wives, a bunch of children and livestock vs a well-trained army. A civilian population against an aggressive and brutal group of killers. (Can we see a parallel to our own times? the peaceful, peace-loving villages of southern Israel and the brutal assault of the Hamas terrorists.)

 "Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now.  I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’” (Bereshith, Genesis Chapter 32 verses 3 - 5)

Jacob was seeking peace, he wanted to avoid a confrontation, he wanted to avoid a massacre of women and children. He sought the path of peace but prepared for war as best as he could, just like the border villages near Gaza. He sends this message to Esau in order to appease him, to say, look my brother, I have wealth, and I will share it with you. Peace is to your advantage. 

In our setting we can see this as Israel offering Gaza free electricity for many years, financial help, free medical care etc, and saying, look my brother you can be like Singapore, wealth and prosperity are in your future, and we can help you achieve this. But what is the response...

Jacob anxiously awaits to hear from the messenters, was my message of peace recieved?

The answer was a clear no, it was his worst possible nightmare....

"When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” (verse 6)

I can imagine what Jacob felt was the same as Israeli female soldiers whose job it is to monitor the border, when on Saturday morning October 7th, 2023 they saw the hoards of crazed Arab terrorists invading Israel, armed to the death and shouting death slogans. Jacob, surrounded with women and children is facing a formidable force. 

As we all know the Biblical story ends well, at this point. Esau is moved by Jacobs sincere affection and the brothers embrace. But we warned by the rabbis, be careful, it is only a temporary truce for it is a "law", Esau hates Jacob. 

Sadly, this has proven true over the many years that followed. I feel the lesson here for us today, is that it takes two sides to make peace but only one side to make war. In the eternal conflicts between the Jacobs of the world and the Esau's, the Jacob camp does not want war, but prepares for it. There are no "two sides to the conflict", there is one side who wants peace and does everything possible for it, he sends out messengers and waits, hopefully, but sadly, sometimes the answer is, and now he is coming at you with four hundred men, i.e. the peace offer has been rejected. At that point Jacob's only two remaining options are submit to a massacre or fight back with everything you have got. In our case, we have chosen the latter. 


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

Understand the Israeli Fighting Mentality - Israel a Nation of Warriors by Moshe Katz


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