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Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayishlach - Genesis 32:4-36:43
When Hannah and I have an argument the challenge is figuring out when to re-engage. If she is still angry, trying to reconcile is usually fruitless. Knowing when her anger has subsided is the key. Parshas Vayishlach gives the answer:
“Jacob became very frightened and distressed” (Bereshis/Genesis 32:8).
In this week’s parsha Jacob prepares to be attacked by Esau. He struggles with the Angel and is given the name Israel, then reconciles with Esau and settles in Shechem.
Next, in retaliation for Dina’s abduction, Simon and Levi deceive then massacre the Shechemites. Jacob travels to Bethel where G-d confirms Jacob’s new name and reaffirms that the land of Canaan will be given to his descendants. Benjamin is born and Rachel dies. After reuniting with Jacob, Isaac dies. The parsha ends with a listing of Ishmael’s family and his death, a listing of the lineage of Seir, and the chronology of the Edomite kings.
Was Esau Still Angry?
Why, in the verse quoted above, was Jacob scared as he approached Esau? During his sojourn in Laban’s household, G-d protected Jacob and made him prosperous. Though his life potentially was in danger, surely he had no reason to be both afraid and distressed.
Most commentators agree that Jacob was afraid that he would have to kill Esau and distressed that he might be killed. As righteous as he was, it is not surprising that he feared killing his brother more than being killed.
But, when his mother told him to leave home, Rebecca ordered him not return, “until your brother’s wrath subsides.” Jacob had to determine the right time. How was he to know Esau had had a change of heart when couldn’t see or hear him?
Your Heart is a Mirror
Proverbs 27:19 gives a clue: “As water reflects a face back to a face, so one’s heart is reflected back to him by another.” Just as a pond mirrors your physical image, your heart, the seat of your emotions, mirrors another person’s emotions.
As Jacob headed toward home, he thought he was no longer angry with Esau. But on learning Esau was approaching, thoughts of killing Esau entered his mind, showing him he still harbored ill will in his heart. Jacob realized since he was not fully reconciled, Esau probably wasn’t either.
When you’ve had an argument with your spouse reconciliation begins with clarifying and resolving your own emotions. You must be sure you’re no longer angry otherwise your seemingly friendly overture will be rebuffed. Consider these questions:
- Do you feel compassion over your spouse being upset?
- Are you truly seeking repair and reunion or just a de-escalation of hostilities?
- Have you accepted you are at least partly responsible for the issue?
- Can you respond lovingly no matter how your spouse acts?
With your heart filled with love and understanding and no lingering anger, the opportunity to re-engage is at hand. And you have created the greatest chance your spouse’s heart, reflecting your own, will be open to reconciliation.
Question – How do you pave the way to resolving conflict with your spouse? Please leave a comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!