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    Why should Esau care? – Vayyishlach

    Jacob’s message to his brother Esau is, “I have sojourned with Laban and stayed there until now” (Gen.32:5).

    The rabbis note that “I have sojourned” is garti, the letters of which also spell taryag, with the numerical value of 613. They deduce that Jacob is really saying, “Though I lived with the wicked Laban I kept the 613 commandments”.

    But why should Esau care about how religious Jacob is? Esau is a warlord, determined to harm his brother. So his brother is pious and counts his commandments? So what?

    Is there a message we are missing when we read Jacob’s words and the rabbinic commentary on them?

    Perhaps the answer is that Jacob is telling Esau that because he takes his religion seriously he prefers to speak peace and amity.

    He is also saying that he wants to make restitution for taking his brother’s blessing all those years ago.

    He has undergone a long period of suffering and introspection since last seeing Esau. All he now wants is for the two of them to find a way of going ahead together and becoming friends.

    Additionally, Jacob could be saying that, without standards or commitments, he would be too much like Esau himself.

    Esau was unrestrained by religion and was out for himself and what he could get out of life. If Jacob were similarly unrestrained, the two of them would be at each other’s throats all the time and neither could ever trust the other. It suited Esau’s purposes to know that Jacob was ethically reliable.

    Whether Jacob could trust Esau was another matter, but at least Esau now knew he could trust Jacob.

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