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The Kiss - וישׁלח

Friday, 23 November, 2018 - 12:13 pm

Jacob-and-Esau.jpgThe Kiss

Twenty years after fleeing to Charan, escaping the wrath of his brother Esau, Jacob headed back to Israel; with much trepidation, preparing to meet his brother Esau. The Torah describes, in great detail, how Jacob prepared for the meeting: he sent gifts to his brother, he prayed, and he prepared for battle.

There was a lot at stake at this meeting. Jacob and Esau, as we have read earlier in the story, had very different personalities, and embodied very different energies. Esau was the man of the field, the energetic hunter, who loved the challenge and thrill of trapping game, and craved sensual pleasures. Jacob, on the other hand, was a man who strived to “dwell in tents”, one immersed in study and in quest for enlightenment, far removed from the chaos of the natural world.   

Isaac hoped to elevate Esau’s energy and passion by blessing Esau. Rebecca understood that blessing Esau with abundant material success would not elevate him to a higher spiritual plane, but rather, it would cement Esau’s investment in a materialistic lifestyle. Rebecca understood that only if Jacob would receive the blessing of material success would Esau be elevated and influenced. For only Jacob’s intense spirituality would have the ability to educate and inspire Esau, by demonstrating how the material blessings could serve the spiritual and the transcendent.

Twenty years after Jacob stole the blessing, he was about to meet Esau once more.  There was a lot at stake at that moment of meeting, not only for Jacob and his family but for all of the cosmos. Would the brothers embrace? Would Esau’s energy and materialistic desires reconcile with Jacob’s spirituality? Or would Esau and Jacob, matter and spirit, be at war forever?

The moment finally arrived. The Torah describes the fateful meeting between the brothers:

And Esau ran toward him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. (Genesis 33:4)

To our great surprise, and perhaps to the great surprise of the brothers themselves, both Jacob and Esau understood their need for one another. They discovered deep feelings toward one another. They realized that they shared the same source and the same father.

The brothers then parted ways. The bond of love and compassion that had been established between them was still fragile. They realized that in order for them to be able to settle together in harmony, more work would be required. They therefore temporarily parted ways. Only in the Messianic era will the world experience the wholesomeness of the restored relationship between Esau and Jacob, between matter and spirit, between body and soul.

Until then, it is up to us, to foster this relationship, to nurture and to allow it to prosper and grow.  

Looking back at Esau’s fateful kiss, the one that reestablished the bond with Jacob Rashi, quoting the Midrash comments:

and kissed him: Heb. וֹיֹשֹקֹהֹוּ. There are dots over the word. There is controversy concerning this matter in a Baraitha... Some interpret the dots to mean that he did not kiss him wholeheartedly. Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai said: It is a well known tradition that Esau hated Jacob, but his compassion was moved at that time, and he kissed him wholeheartedly.

The two opinion of whether or not Esau’s kiss was wholeheartedly sincere, represent two stages in the fusion of the material and spiritual. At first, the bond is not wholehearted. The materialistic side of the person would prefer to live a life unburdened by the discipline of spirituality and meaning. At first, the selfish side of the person would prefer to push back and reject the search for meaning. The first step is to create a kiss, an embrace, that is not yet wholehearted. Eventually, over time and with practice, the bond, the kiss, will become wholehearted. For the material itself will come to realize the beauty of harmony.

Based on the teachings of the Rebbe, Vayishlach 5743.    


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