We make mistakes.
We say things we shouldn’t say. We do things we shouldn’t do.
We hurt. We cause pain. We damage.
But, as Rebbe Nachman's famous saying goes:
“If you believe that you can damage, then believe you can repair.”
If you’ve messed things up, then fix it.
Even though most people know that’s true, society often tells us the opposite: “Leave the past in the past. Don’t bring up old issues.”
In other words, let’s not deal with that.
Forget what I said. Forget what I did. Act like nothing ever happened.
That’s not what our forefather Ya’aqob (Jacob) taught us.
Previously, in parshas Toldot and Vayeitze, Ya’aqob deceived his father and stole his brother Esau’s blessing. Esau sought to kill him in revenge, so Ya’aqob fled for his life.
In this week’s readings, Parsha Vayishlach, Ya’aqob returns home, but he must first confront his brother on the way.
Ya'aqob had to deal with his past in order to move on to the future YAHUAH promised him.
It’s often understood that Ya’aqob was meant to receive the blessing from his father because he was chosen, and Esau was not. Therefore, he had to do what he had to do to ensure the will of Elohim was done.
That’s most likely true. But there may be another way of looking at it.
The blessing meant for Esau (but given to Ya’aqob) was for material blessings and leadership:
Bereshith/Genesis 27:27-29 “And he came near and kissed him. And he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which יהוה has blessed. (28) And Elohim give you of the dew of the heavens, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. (29) Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those cursing you, and blessed be those blessing you!”
This was not the blessing of Abraham that was passed down to his chosen descendants.
The Abrahamic blessing was a blessing of a multitude of descendants and the inheritance of land:
Ber/Gen. 13:14-17 "And after Lot had separated from him, יהוה said to Abram, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, (15) for all the land which you see I shall give to you and your seed forever. (16) And I shall make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that, if a man could count the dust of the earth, then your seed also could be counted. (17) Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”
(see also Ber/Gen. 12:1-3; 15:5; 17:7-8; 22:16-18)
This blessing was given to Yitshaq (26:2-5), and Yitshaq gave Ya'aqob this blessing before Ya'aqob fled to Haran:
Ber/Gen. 28:3-4 “And El Shaddai bless you, and make you bear fruit and increase you, and you shall become an assembly of peoples, (4) and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your seed with you, so that you inherit the land of your sojournings, which Elohim gave to Abraham.”
Then, YAHUAH Himself gave Ya’aqob this blessing both on his way down and on his way back from Haran:
Ber/Gen. 28:13-15 “And see, יהוה stood above it and said, “I am יהוה Elohim of Abraham your father and the Elohim of Yitshaq. The land on which you are lying, I give it to you and your seed. (14) And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall break forth to the west and to the east, to the north and the south. And all the clans of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your seed. (15) And see, I am with you and shall guard you wherever you go, and shall bring you back to this land. For I am not going to leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
Ber/Gen. 35:11-12 “And Elohim said to him, “I am Ěl Shaddai. Bear fruit and increase, a nation and a company of nations shall be from you, and sovereigns come from your body. (12) And the land which I gave Abraham and Yitshaq I give to you. And to your seed after you I give this land.”
Ya'aqob received the Abrahamic blessing from his father Yitshaq and from YAHUAH after he took Esau's blessing. So, it seems like Ya’aqob was still going to get this monumental blessing. The blessing meant for him was still going to come to him.
So, perhaps...just perhaps…
Ya’aqob didn’t have to steal Esau’s blessing. Perhaps.
But he did.
And his actions caused serious damage to his relationship with his brother. So much so, that after twenty years, Ya’aqob was still afraid for his life.
Now, Ya’aqob could’ve avoided Esau altogether. He didn’t have to send messengers with gifts for his brother. He didn’t have to seek Esau’s favor.
He could’ve just gone about his business, travel to wherever he was going, and bypass Esau altogether.
But he didn’t.
Ya’aqob knew that in order to move on to his true future, he had to first deal with his past.
He had to reconcile his relationship with his brother, and repair the damage he caused.
He had to make it right.
As I said, perhaps...perhaps...he didn’t need to steal Esau’s blessing of material prosperity and leadership.
Notice the abundant gifts Ya’aqob gave to Esau - droves and droves of goats, sheep, camels with colts, cows, bulls, and donkeys with foals (32:13-15).
Then, when they finally met, Ya’aqob bowed seven times to his older brother (Ber. 33:3).
Ya’aqob stole the blessing of material goods and leadership, and now it looks like he’s trying to make things right!
Whether or not Ya'aqob's actions were a mistake, I can't say. Regardless of whether he was right or wrong, it’s clear that Ya’aqob was sorry about the unintended outcome - causing Esau’s anger and damaging their relationship.
He realized that damage was done, and he tried to repair it.
If we truly want to step into the promise that YAH has for us, then we have work to do. We can’t expect to waltz into our ‘Promised Land’ of blessings with unresolved issues in our past.
If we caused damage - to our relationships, to other people’s lives - then, we have to repair it.
It doesn’t matter if it was yesterday or twenty years ago, we can’t act like it never happened.
Ya’aqob made it right twenty years later. Once he dealt with it, then he could move on.
It may be difficult. It may make you afraid.
“Ya’aqob was greatly afraid and distressed.” (Ber. 32:7)
But it’s necessary to repair the damage we caused.
Do like Ya’aqob: pray first, and then make a sincere effort to make things right.
When your heart is true, YAH will give you favor and work it out.
"And Esaw ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." (Ber. 33:4)
Then, once the past is resolved, YAH will bring you to your promised future.
"And Yaʽaqob dwelt in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Kenaʽan." (Ber. 37:1)