This is the Parsha about confronting your fears. Yaakov has to go to visit his brother- the one he ran away from, the one that wanted to kill him, the one he tricked. We see Yaakov preparing himself, as well as his family. He divides them as a way to potentially protect them. He sends lots of people with gifts before him, to potentially appease him. He even has a bad dream with him fighting (himself, and angel of God, an angel of Esav), working out the tension the morning before he has to confront his brother.
And then he meets him. The commentaries read that things didn’t go well. The known midrash of why are there dots on the word “he kissed”, it is to show the teeth marks on Yaakov’s neck. Esav went into kiss but really wanted to bite him, to kill him, and a miracle happened and his neck turned to stone, and so he didn’t die. But what if he really did just want to kiss him? What if he really did just want to make peace and see his brother after all these years? What if he really wanted all of this, and Yaakov didn’t give him the time of day?
On the other side, we can ask the same of Esav. How could he expect Yaakov to come willingly without fear? How can he show that he actually means peace?
There is another story about fear and choice. The one of Dina. We had an interesting conversation over Shabbat about what happened to her. Was she really raped? Or maybe the pain that was caused was not a physical one, as we do talk about love in this story, but rather an emotional/sociological one- she has slept with someone that she chose, and he was outside of the people that she was told she could be with- she was now a black mark on the family. Just sleeping with someone outside of marriage would do that, as why someone would marry a non-virgin.
Dina started exploring outside of her comfort zone, she had the original choice to do that. Maybe she even had the choice to start with this guy, who might have been nice. I’m sure there was fear to- what do you do when you love someone that doesn’t fit into your community? What do you do with someone that everyone around you will think it is strange or different? How can one hold up their communal ideals while still being true to themselves?
And we can’t forget her father and brothers, who when they hear about all that happened become furious. So much so that her brothers decide to trick the entire nation, that seem to be genuinely open to change their ways, so that he could get married, and then kill them all. Again there is no trust. Again there is a want to be the most powerful. Again there is only taking in one side of pain and fear.
It is hard to confront people that might have hurt us in the past. It is hard to try out things that are a bit out of what our immediate community does or thinks. It is hard to know what to do when someone close to us is hurt. But at the same time, they are all important things to do. We need to figure out ways when someone wants to apologize to at least be there to listen (I do agree that in certain circumstances this is a bad idea no matter how much a person wants to apologize, and I think that is the right of the person to protect themselves, no one should actually feel the need to put themselves in danger). We need to figure out what is right for oneself, and decide how that will affect their communal life, and if it is right to go for it. Although at the same time I think that it is good to sometimes go outside of you comfort zone a bit. And most importantly, I think that we need to not act rashly when we are trying to protect those who are close to us. I think that all it does is perpetuate violence and sadness- there must be a better way.
May this week be one of peace and healing. A week where we are able to confront our fears, go out of our comfort zone, and create peace with those around us, in hopes of a better future.