Vayishlach – Enemies and Brothers

Esav is usually compared to the Yetzer Hara who constantly works to destroy everything we have built for ourselves in this world; spiritual or mundane. And in this week’s Parsha we see Yaakov about to meet up with Esav and his prayer is, “Save me please. From the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav.”(32:12) Yaakov asked to be saved from Esav twice. Once as Esav and once as his brother, yet what significant difference could there be between these two profiles of the same Esav that Yaakov felt the need to distinguish them? A mashul from the Holy Rav Meir of Premishlan may be able to give us a better understanding; “There was once a farmer who was an alcoholic. After hitting rock bottom he resolved to quit his drinking and lead a life of sobriety. Most of the time he was easily able to control himself but every so often he would have to fight off a tremendous urge to break his sobriety and drink up. Yet after many days filled with struggle he decided to give up! Walking to the bar, he thought to himself, “What am I doing right now?! What, I should pretend that this is enjoyable, drinking till I pass out, waking up on the sidewalk? No way!” and he quickly turned back home. As soon as he sat down on his couch he congratulated himself. He was so happy that he was able to fight off the most intense urge he ever had for drinking. “You know what,” he said to himself, “such an achievement is something to celebrate about!” and off he went to the bar to celebrate…”

Our Yetzer Hara, like Esav can come to us in two ways. He can come to us as Esav, urging us, tempting us, coaxing us to do the wrong thing. To run to the bar. This form of the Yezter Hara could be confronted, we could distract ourselves by learning or striking up a conversation with a friend. Yet the other way our Yetzer Hara works to get us is by being like our “brother”. This Yetzer Hara knows us so well and it allows him to sneak in to our head when we are alone, when we think we are all good and from there he begins to drag us to sin all the while letting us think we are the ones winning. So Yaakov prayed, save me from the hand of Esav, meaning: save me from the Yetzer Hara and all his temptations. Yaakov also prayed, save me from my brother, meaning: save me from “MY” Yetzer Hara, the one who knows me so well, like a brother and can get me to slip up easily because he’s already so close. We, like Yaakov, must also be careful to distinguish between the two ways the Evil inclination seeks to infiltrate our holy lives. For one cannot be dealt with the same as the other. We must be strong in the face of Esav, our Yetzer Hara, and work diligently to focus on the positive in our lives. With this resolve and awareness we will constantly overcome the spiritual challenges we face, whether they are clear to us or they are sneaking around in the shadows we will stand tall, every step of the way climbing higher.

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