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    Derech eretz for a brother – Vayyishlach

    The meeting of Jacob & Esau, by James Tissot

    The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau was never going to be easy.

    According to the sages, Jacob tried three methods: prayer, gifts, and readying himself for battle.

    Fortunately the battle was not necessary. But the message he sent Esau seems rather grovelling: “Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau… and he commanded them as follows: ‘Thus shall you say to my lord Esau…'” (Gen. 32:4-5).

    Ibn Ezra believes that he used the phrase “my lord Esau” in order to ensure that the messengers would address Esau with deference.

    Nachmanides adds that since Esau was the older, it was appropriate for the younger brother to speak respectfully to him and call himself “your servant Jacob”; though Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentils, the fact still remains that Jacob had been born second.

    If we adopt Nachmanides’ approach, we can possibly read the sentence in this way – “Thus shall you say, ‘To my lord Esau: thus says your servant Jacob…”

    The reconciliation took place, but the sages thought it fell short of full friendship; Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said centuries later, “It is well known that Esau hates Jacob”.

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