This weeks Parsha is Parshas Vayishlach. In the Parsha we read of the meeting of Jacob and Esau. Before they met the Torah tells us that Jacob was very scared. Thirty Four years earlier, when Jacob left his parent’s home, Esau had decided to kill Jacob. The hatred that he had for Jacob was certainly evident, as he approached Jacob with four hundred armed men. As Jacob prepared to meet him, the Torah describes the tremendous present that he sent to Esau to appease him. Hundreds of animals were sent, as well as precious gems and stones. When they finally did meet face to face, the Torah describes how Jacob took his wives, his maidservants, and his eleven sons (Genesis 32:23). We know that at this point, (before Benjamin was born), Jacob had eleven boys and one daughter – Dina. Why is his daughter Dina not mentioned here? Where was she?
Our Sages tell us that Jacob was scared that if Esau saw Dina he would want to marry her. He therefore hid her in a box, so that she would not be noticed. The Sages add that Jacob was punished for this. If she would have married Esau, perhaps she would have gotten him to repent. Because Jacob didn’t want to have Dina marry Esau in a permitted way, she was subsequently taken from him by Shechem in a forbidden way. (Obviously we don’t try to marry off our daughters to wicked people in the hope that they will change. Rav Yeruchem Levovitz z”l explained that Jacob is faulted here for not feeling bad when he hid her in the box, that he couldn’t take the chance of having Dina marry him. He should have said to himself –“if only she could marry Esau and change him”.)
How old was Esau at this time? Either 98 or 99 years of age. He was already living the life of a wicked person since he was thirteen – over eighty years!!! Yet, Jacob was expected to hope and plan for Esau to do Teshuva – to repent!! Rav Chatzkel Levenstien, the late Mashgiach in the Ponovezh Yeshiva, commented that we see from here how we must never give up hope on someone. Even a person who lived a long wicked life like Esau, can still return!! This is such an important, positive way to look at people. How beautiful is the trait of seeing the great potential in every Jew who crosses our path?
If we can’t give up on any other person, we certainly can’t give up on ourselves!! Never should we say to ourselves, “It’s too late for me to change”, or “I’m already set in my ways”. If change can be expected from even an old sinner like Esau, certainly it is expected from us. We can change, we can improve, and we can do better! Let’s start now!!