November 30, 2020, Israel
Siblings, families, good friends, colleagues, can have a falling out. When this happens it is very sad. I will be teaching a seminar soon at a certain location and I asked one of the students if she will be attending, she said, no, sadly, we a "falling out". And I wonder why does this happen and what can be done to make it right again. Two good people, they should be able to communicate. Of course if one of the two is not a good person, then it is not possible to work things out, reconciliation will be very difficult, if not impossible. But we can learn a great deal from our Patriarch Jacob, Yaakov of the Bible.
Jacob had some serious family issues, from birth he was at conflict with his brother Esau. Their natures were very different and it seems conflict was always quick to come. Mother Rebecca wisely advises her son Jacob to go far away, start his family elsewhere.
And now many years have passed and Jacob is beginning his journey home. And he is worried, he is very worried. He fears that his brother will be out for revenge. He sends messengers ahead to the land of Seir, to the field of Edom, to see how things are, to test the waters and find out if trouble lies ahead. Jacob sends messengers to his brother with words of peace and reconciliation, and he eagerly awaits their return and his brother's response. "And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying 'We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to you with four hundred warriors with him.'" (Genesis, Chapter 32)
Jacob is terrified, he has a large camp with women and children and much cattle and sheep. He cannot maneuver like warriors, he has not the possibility to fight back. He is terribly anxious. He starts making plans, I will split up the camps, so if Esau attacks one camp the other camp can escape. He is ready to accept that half his family will annihilated. His fear grows and he cries out to God, "God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, God who said to me Return to Your land and I will be good to you". Jacob is terrified. "Save me, I pray to you, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau for I am afraid of him lest him come and smite me, the mothers and the children." (Genesis, 32, 12), Jacob continues...."you promised me, my seed would be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because they will be so many."
At this point we can feel his anxiety; his wives, his children, his wealth, his cattle, his entire family and his promised glorious future, it is all about to go up in smoke, Everything he has, everything he worked so hard for, it is all about to come to a very violent end, as Esau is heading towards him with 400 warriors.
I am reminded at this point of my great grandmother Perl Klein of blessed memory, who in May 1944 must have felt the same way. With one leg, the other having been amputated due to diabetes, she was led to the train to Auschwitz with her entire family; children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She was 96 years old but would only live a short while longer. With her entire family she boarded the dreaded train, the cattle car. She died on the train. My niece carries her name today.
I pray to you God, save me from my brother, from Esau, for he will smite me with no mercy, the mothers and the children! How little things have changed over the years.
Jacob realizes that combat is not an option now. But please do not see this as a sign of weakness for we shall see that Jacob is indeed a warrior, a wrestler.
And now the Bible tells us something strange. With all this drama going on the Bible tells that Jacob went to sleep, as all men do. "And he lodged there that night..." Why? Why is it so important to tell us that at night Jacob went to sleep?
I must have read this verse a thousand times during my lifetime, but today I read it and a new message came to me, perhaps it is a message for me, but I will share it with you. And Jacob lodged THERE that night. He lodged in that place, that spiritual place where he was at that moment, he dwelt in that moment, to fully understand, comprehend, appreciate that particular moment in time. He had to fully understand that moment, he had to make a decision based on the reality of the situation that he was in, not the situation he hoped to be in, not an ideal situation, not a textbook situation, but he lodged, he slept, there, in that place, in that moment, in that situation.
And when he woke up he saw things more clearly. His doubt was gone, he knew what he needed to.
" And he lodged there that night, and took of that which he had with him as a PRESENT for Esau his brother." (Chapter 32, verse 14)
A man is coming towards you with 400 warriors, he wants blood. Jacob slept on it, and when he awoke in the morning, refreshed, he was calm. He is no longer crying out for help. He has a plan.
Often we feel fear, and we become very anxious, and we are all geared up for a fight. And then, there is a falling out, and a friendship is over, a relationship is over. Tragically even brothers become estranged and do not speak for many years. But if you sleep on it, and then wake up, and say...I will present a gift to my brother, perhaps he will see me kindly, perhaps I can appease his anger.
Jacob is not trying to prove that he is right, or even justified, there is no mention of any of this, it is of zero significance who is right and who is wrong, that no longer is a factor. All that matters is who is willing to make the first kind gesture, to seek peace among brothers.
Jacob is a warrior, shortly afterwards he proves his, he wrestles with a man who is an angel of God and a powerful warrior. And Jacob emerges victorious and his name becomes ISRAEL, one who has wrestled with God and Man and has proven able. So Jacob is not a coward, he is not avoiding conflict because he is afraid. He is avoiding conflict becomes he has found a better way. He says; Perhaps he will accept me when we meet again face to face, brother to brother.
And he lodged there that night. Sometimes we need to take a break, get away from the warlike spirit and take a step back. Do you want conflict with your brother, your instructor, your student, your colleague or do you want peace? And Jacob slept on it, and woke up in the morning and said...I shall present my brother with a gift; goats, sheep, camels. The Bible changes the tone after Jacob makes up, gone is the anxiety, gone is the desperate fear, it is replaced by a calm plan. And the result?
and Esau said...Let us go together, let us take our journey together, and Esau offers to send some of his warriors along to protect the women and children.
Sadly we know that the reconciliation did not last and to this very day we are in this conflict, but I have not lost hope. Each year when I read this passage tears come to my eyes as I imagine the two brothers embracing, Come let us journey together my brother. At that moment, the two brothers were united. At the moment there was peace. And we can still believe in peace, between brothers, between friends, between nations.
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