As Yaakov Avinu returned to Eretz Yisrael, he sent messengers with a humble
entreaty to his brother, Eisuv. Hearing that Eisuv was approaching with four
hundred men of war, Yaakov prepared for the worst. Among Yaakov's efforts:
He sent gifts, and bowed repeatedly before his brother.
We have conflicting explanations for Yaakov's behavior. The simple
explanation is that he sought to appease Eisuv with a humble demeanor. Besides
the fact that the Medrashim contradict this (see Toras Moshe of the Chasom
Sofer), from the verses alone such a view seems untenable: Why would Yaakov
seek to humble himself before Eisuv, who represented an opposing attitude,
had married idol-worshippers, and wished to kill Yaakov?
The Zohar explains along these lines: Yaakov wasn't bowing to Eisuv,
but to Hashem. Meanwhile, he gave to Eisuv what he wanted -- honor. Yaakov
knew that his own time had not yet arrived. In the meantime, he would let
Eisuv have his way. In so doing -- says the Zohar -- Yaakov showed greater
wisdom and cunning than anything else he did with Eisuv. If Eisuv had known
what Yaakov was truly doing, he would never have allowed Yaakov to get away
with it... (Zohar, p. 176)
To say that Yaakov bowed, not to Eisuv, but to Hashem, may seem forced.
Remember, however, that Michah said, "Walk humbly with Hashem." (Michah 6:8)
Of course, walking humbly with Hashem entails not displaying pride among
people -- but the reason is to be modest before Hashem, who is always present.
Thus, one would always act modestly before people, but not necessarily because
he is submitting to them. He is submitting to Hashem.
The difference is great. One who humbles himself before man may become
feeble, but one who humbles himself before Hashem is empowered.
Mishlei (Proverbs) 12:9
Better to be a lowly person who has a servant, than he who honors himself
but lacks bread.
The Zohar offers two explanations of this verse. One explanation is that
it refers to the urge for evil. `One who humbles himself will master the
urge for evil; one who seeks honors will be enslaved.' The second explanation:
The verse refers to Yaakov and Eisuv. Yaakov humbled himself and Eisuv became
The two explanations are the same: one who walks humbly before Hashem
As far as our opening question is concerned, we now see that Yaakov was
not submitting to Eisuv. Yaakov was the supreme diplomat and negotiator.
He knew how to show honor to the ruling authority.
"Derech Eretz Kadmah Latorah." Manners precede Torah. By acting with
patience and forethought, Yaakov was not giving in to Eisuv but dominating
Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 2
Chanukah and Chodesh
The Syrian-Greek invaders in the Chanukah story forbade three observances:
Chodesh (sanctification of the new moon), Shabbos, and Bris Milah. Each of
these three subjects represents an essential aspect of Judaism, basic to
the relationship of the Jews and Hashem. (See Mitzvas Ner Ish Ubaiso, p.
The Jews are altogether compared to the moon. There are twelve months
of the lunar calendar, corresponding to the twelve sons of Yaakov. On the
leap year, there are thirteen months, because Yoseif became two tribes: Ephraim
Eisuv is compared to the sun. The solar year is longer than the lunar
year, except in a leap year. The leap year is indicative of the Messianic
era, when the Mashiach Ben Yoseif will defeat the sons of Eisuv... (See Maharsha,
At the beginning of the Torah, the Medrash relates that the moon and
the sun were originally the same size. The moon complained to Hashem: "How
can two kings share one crown?" Hashem answered: "Go make yourself
smaller!" The moon obeyed, and therefore the moon is the smaller light.
Asarah Ma'amoros explains the analogy. Sarah had greater prophetic abilities
than Avraham, yet Avraham got the honors. The reason: Sarah saw that her
greatness would interfere with Avraham's dignity. Therefore, she made herself
look small; in fact, she had the greatest powers.
The Syrian-Greek invaders felt threatened by the Jewish Lunar calendar.
The humility of the Jew is a sign that one day, he will have ascendancy...
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein Kollel of Kiryas Radin 11 Kiryas
Radin Spring Valley, NY 10977 Phone: (914) 362-5156 E-mail: