In arranging his family for the potentially explosive meeting with Esav,
Yaakov placed the shfachos (Bilhah and Zilpah, the maidservant wives) and
their children first, followed by Leah and her children, and followed
finally by Rochel and Yosef. 33:2. Rashi says that the reason for this
formation is 'acharon acharon chaviv', meaning that whoever is most dear
goes last. [This phrase is commonly used in Jewish schools and homes,
usually to assuage the feelings of a child who is last in line to receive
The first pasuk of Parshas Nitzavim delineates all who were standing
before Hashem. Rashi there says the order is determined by 'hachashuv
chashuv kodem', meaning that whoever is most important goes first.
Why does chashivus/importance lead to being placed first whereas
chavivus/endearment leads to being placed last - why wouldn’t being dear
also lead to being placed first?
Perhaps our common understanding of 'acharon acharon chaviv' is not
accurate. Rather, chavivus/endearment leads to whatever best protects that
which is dear. Sometimes that might be first, sometimes last, depending on
the situation. Here Esav is a threat, and Yaakov protects those most dear
to him by leaving them in the back. In fact, Rashi makes his acharon
acharon chaviv comment on the words describing Leah's placement in the
middle, further bolstering the idea that there is nothing special about
being last per se, unless the context calls for it as a protective measure.