The Parsha begins this week with the story of the meeting of Jacob with Esau. After twenty two years of separation, the two brothers finally met again. Jacob was very worried that Esau’s old plans to kill Jacob might still be in his mind. He prepared for the possibility of war with Esau. As the meeting came close, Jacob prayed to Hashem, “please save me miyad achi miyad Esau” – “please save me from the hands of my brother, from the hands of Esau.” The commentaries are puzzled; why is there a double expression used? Wouldn’t it suffice to just say “from the hands of my brother Esau”? Better yet, couldn’t it just have said “save me from the hands of my brother”? We all know that Jacobs’ brother was Esau?
The Bais Halevi explains that Jacob was concerned about two separate things when he was ready to meet Esau:
1) Esau may act like an enemy – he may try to kill him.
2) Esau may act as a friend – he may try to become friendly with him.
Both of these scenarios caused great concern to Jacob. If Esau would be the enemy, Jacob and his entire family would be in great physical danger. That was obviously an issue of great concern to Jacob. Of even greater concern to Jacob was the possibility that Esau would act as a friend. The friendship of an evil person like Esau could cause greater harm than the greatest enemies. Therefore, Jacob prayed separately to Hashem to protect him from each of these dangers. He even prayed to be saved from Esau’s’ friendship first, (miyad achi), recognizing that this was the greater of the two dangers.
In our time we have seen only too much how the friendship of Esau has been a greater threat to the survival of the Jewish people than the hatred of Esau. How many Jews have been lost from Judaism due to the sweet enticing friendliness of the non-Jewish world? While we certainly must be polite and respectful, we must be on the guard constantly to make sure our Jewish identity is not being attracted to wrong places or ideas. This is the greatest challenge