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    The third verse – Vayyishlach

    HandshakeThe portion begins with Jacob sending messengers to his brother (Gen. 32:4).

    Messengers in Hebrew are malachim, the same word that is used for angels.

    The Midrash actually identifies the messengers with angels, though the Targum regards them as human beings, some of Jacob’s servants.

    Those who have ever been messengers plying between two sides of a conflict know that it is a demanding role which even the angels would find over-taxing.

    In the days of Dr. Kissinger we used to speak of shuttle diplomacy, though the concept is as old as the Bible. Aaron the kohen gadol was probably the pioneer of diplomatic shuttling. The sages paint a vivid picture of him going to A to try to achieve peace with B, and then working on B to make peace with A.

    It takes immense skill and patience. Some people are good at it, whilst others instinctively know it is not for them.

    In the inner- and inter-religious sphere there are some remarkable religious diplomats, whose success is such that the public are never even aware that there was a problem.

    The late Judge Laski, who encouraged me in my early career in England, used to say, “The best public work is done privately”, even though there are no honours or votes of thanks for the behind-the-scenes malachim.

    Yet their reward is implied in the 13th of Rabbi Yishma’el’s hermeneutical rules which come at the beginning of the siddur. Rabbi Yishma’el speaks of two verses that seemingly contradict each other ad sheyavo ha-katuv ha-sh’lishi veyachri’a beineihem – “until there comes a third verse and reconciles them”.

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