Parashat Vayishlah

Jacob and family return to Canaan to face Esau, after which Dinah is raped and two of Jacob's sons exact revenge.

Print this page Print this page

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

Many years after his marriages to Rachel and Leah, Jacob received word from God that it was time to return home. Jacob sent messengers ahead to meet his brother Esau. "Tell him that his servant Jacob has been with Laban until now. Tell him that I have acquired herds and flocks and servants. Tell him I seek favor in his eyes."

The messengers soon returned. "Your brother is coming to meet you, but there are 400 men with him."

Gifts for Esau

Jacob was very much afraid of his brother (because Jacob had deceived their father into giving him the special first-born blessing that was meant for Esau). So Jacob divided his camp saying, "If Esau strikes down one camp, the other will escape."

Thereupon Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, God who says to me to return to my country and that the Almighty will do good to me. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, for I fear he shall kill me and my family, even though you promised to make my descendants like sand in the sea."

That night Jacob set aside gifts for Esau from his herds and property. He instructed his servants to go one by one, with space in between, to present Esau with these gifts.

Jacob Wrestles with God's Angel

While the servants were bringing Jacob’s gifts to Esau, Jacob moved his wife and children to yet another camp. Jacob was left alone in camp and someone wrestled with him until the break of day. When the one that wrestled with Jacob saw that it was impossible to win, that one touched the upper joint of Jacob's thigh and it was dislocated.

Then the one that was fighting against Jacob said, "Let me go for day is breaking."

But Jacob responded, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

"What is your name?" asked the wrestler.

"Jacob."

"Then your name shall no longer be Jacob but Israel, for in prevailing in this fight you have become the commanding power before God and men."

The one that wrestled Jacob would not give a name, but did bless Jacob. Jacob then named the place Peniel: "For I have seen the Divine face to face and my character has remained intact." Then Jacob limped away.

Jacob Meets Esau

Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked and lo! Esau was coming with 400 men. Jacob immediately lined up his families: the maidservants and their children, followed by Leah and their children, and then Rachel and Joseph at the end. Then Jacob went ahead of them and bowed to the ground seven times until he came close to his brother. Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, fell upon his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at www.TiptoeThroughTheTorah.com, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.