Purim, Chanukah, Esau the Killer, Esau the Brother

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau after having been separated from him for many years. Jacob is fearful that Esau will attempt to kill him, his wives, and his children. Jacob pleads with God, saying: “Please save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him, lest he come and strike me, mothers together with children.” (Genesis, 32:12)

Our commentators question the redundancy in Jacob’s prayer. Why does Jacob say “…from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau”? He should have simply said: “Save me from the hand of Esau.” The Beit Halevi explains that Jacob was fearful of two possible outcomes from his encounter with Esau. One possible outcome was that Esau would attempt to annihilate him and his family. The other possible outcome was that Esau would attempt to befriend him and build a brotherly relationship. Jacob’s fear of physical annihilation is completely understandable, but why would he be fearful of Esau’s brotherly friendship?