Vayishlach – Laws of Nature and of Human Nature

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“As surely as I have established My covenant with day and night – the laws of heaven and earth – so will I never reject the offspring of Yaakov…” (Yirmiyahu 33:25-26)

There are laws of nature, and of human nature. And one of the latter is, according to Rabi Shimon bar Yochai, in a beraisa brought by Rashi (Beraishis 33:4), the “halacha” that “Esav hates Yaakov.”

When the sar shel Esav wrestles with Yaakov, our forefather asks him “Tell me your name” and Seforno comments that the question’s intent was, “What sin of mine allowed you to attack me?”

No answer to the question is recorded or, presumably, offered.

Something poignant inheres in that. When hatred of Jews is manifest, we often try to understand what begat it, what “reason” there is for it. But, even though the haters might claim there are reasons, when looked at closely, their “reasons” are illogical. There’s simply no “there” there. 

Because the hatred isn’t “caused” by anything.  It just is, as an expression of animus inherent in Esav’s and his spiritual descendants’ essence.

It is, in other words, a law of human nature. And rather than criticize ourselves for doing this or that wrong, or not doing this or that right, we do best to just smile at the demonstration of that “law,” and, even as we fight, as we must, to counter the unwarranted anger and slanders, try to accept that, at least among some people, it will absurdly persist until Mashiach arrives.

And at the same time, we must recognize, too, that, despite Esav’s evil intentions, another “law,” another reality, is that Hashem “will never reject the offspring of Yaakov,” will never allow Esav and his spiritual progeny to win.

© 2022 Rabbi Avi Shafran

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