We all have encountered Esavs in our lives, whether as a part of ourselves or manifested in various people we encounter. Yakov demonstrates the various ways to overcome Esav and the yetzer hara he represents. Last week we saw Yakov asking only for food and clothing. He’s a picture of the simple tzadik. At this stage of his life, he was fearful of Lavan and Esav and would flee and run from his troubles. But in this week, we see a more mature Yakov: he has accumulated material wealth because he knows how to spiritualize it, and he approaches Esav instead of fleeing, because he knows the way in which he and all of us must face adversity. Rashi points out the way in which Yakov faced his challenge head on; he didn’t rely on his righteousness or for Hashem to take care of it. He sent gifts, he prayed, and at the same time, he prepared for battle, and separated his camp into two. In difficult situations it’s important to go in with a positive attitude that everything will work out, but we can’t always control how the situation will unfold and how the other person will react and so we have to prepare and protect ourselves at any cost.

We have all had to overcome Esavs in our lives, people that are toxic and try to push your positivity into negativity. Sometimes it’s different people at different times. It’s a struggle to be the better person with such people. It’s only recently that I started to question why I’m trying so hard, and considered that it might be time to match toxicity and negativity with just that. But then I realized that that would let that person change you for the worse, making you into what you don’t like about them. R’ Nachman teaches that even with the most evil person one has to find the good point in them, and that could elevate them to a place of merit. Focus on the good, and eventually it will be good. So we have to approach it like Yakov and Esav. Yakov came to Esav and sent gifts and said “My Lord,” humbling himself, so that the ascent of good would result in the descent of bad. Part of bittul is self-transcendence – putting your own self aside and figuring out a way to continue to be righteous and to connect to Hashem despite the obstacles.

Thanks for reading! Much love & Shabbat Shalom!
– Erez

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