Parashas Vayishlach

This week’s parashah recounts the encounter Yaakov had with Eisav after returning to Eretz Yisrael. After relating what occurred during this encounter, the Torah reports (Bereishis 33:16): “And Eisav went back on that day on his way to Seir.” The Maggid asks: Why does the Torah make a point of stating that Eisav headed back for Seir on that day? What does it matter to us whether he heading back on that day or on some other day?
In answering this question, the Maggid begins by analyzing the interchange Avraham’s servant Eliezer had with Rivkah’s mother and Rivkah’s brother Lavan. Avraham sent Eliezer to Padan Aram to find a wife for Yitzchak. Hashem miraculously transported Eliezer from Canaan from Padan Aram in less than a day, and arranged for Eliezer to encounter Rivkah at the well immediately upon his arrival. When Eliezer met with Rivkah’s family, he described in great detail his miraculous success, and gained the agreement of Rivkah’s family to a match between Rivkah and Yitzchak. Eliezer spent the night with Rivkah’s family and in the morning announced his intent to return to Canaan. Rivkah’s mother and brother suggested that he stay for some period of time. Eliezer replied (Bereishis 24:56): “Do not delay me, for Hashem has granted me success; send me off so I may go to my master.” This response would have been natural had Eliezer already tarried with Rivkah’s family longer than the amount of time commensurate with a trip from Canaan to Padan Aram. But in fact he had been away from Canaan only one day. Why, then, was he in such a hurry to leave? Also, why did he recount so profusely to Rivkah’s family the miraculous success that Hashem had granted him?
The Maggid explains the matter as follows. The way people act as regards visiting out-of-town relatives typically depends on how far away the relatives live. If someone’s relatives live a long distance away, he will visit them only rarely, on special occasions, and when he visits he will stay a long time – a few weeks or perhaps a couple of months – in keeping with the time and effort he spent to make the trip. On the other hand, if the relatives live close by, he will stay only a short time, for he can easily make the trip again whenever he wants.
Eliezer anticipated that Rivkah’s family would ask him to stay for a considerable time, in keeping with the great distance between Avraham’s home in Canaan and Padan Aram. But he astutely recognized that connivers like Rivkah’s father Besuel and her brother Lavan would approach him over and over again right before he was scheduled to leave and try to get him to stay for “just a bit more time.” He therefore cleverly preempted them by telling them that he left Canaan and arrived in Padan Aram on the same day, thus letting them know that he spent little time and effort making the trip. According, when Rivkah’s mother and brother asked him to let “the young lady stay with us for a few days,” Eliezer responded by saying, “Do not delay me, for Hashem has granted me success.” He was reminding them that his trip had taken him only a day, and so a single night’s stay was long enough.
The Maggid then turns to the interchange between Eisav and Yaakov. Hashem miraculously made Eisav have a change of heart, turning from being Yaakov’s enemy into being a loving brother and even hugging him and kissing him. Given this reception, it might be claimed that Eisav never had in mind to wage war with Yaakov in the first place. It might be suggested that Eisav’s intent was just the opposite: Having not seen Yaakov for many years and then having heard that he was returning to Canaan as a successful man, he assembled an entourage of 400 friends and went out to give Yaakov a warm, brotherly welcome and spend some time enjoying his company. In order to rule out such a suggestion, and to reveal the true villainy seated in Eisav’s heart, the Torah informs us that Eisav parted from Yaakov the very same day he met with him. From this fact, we can tell that Eisav’s intent in meeting Yaakov was not peaceful and amicable. If it were, surely he would have spent considerable time socializing with Yaakov, for this would have been the reason he had traveled so far to greet him. Rather, Eisav’s intent was to do Yaakov evil. And since Hashem thwarted his plan, he turned right around and went back home.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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