When Yakov impersonated Esau to take his blessing, his place at home was untenable, and he had to run away. After twenty years apart, their paths crossed once more, and Yakov was afraid. He didn’t know what would happen to him or his family, and he prepared, and he prayed:
הַצִּילֵנִי נָא מִיַּד אָחִי מִיַּד עֵשָׂו כִּי־יָרֵא אָנֹכִי אֹתוֹ פֶּן־יָבוֹא וְהִכַּנִי אֵם עַל־בָּנִים – Save me, please! From the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, I’m scared he might come and strike me down, mothers and children alike. (32:12)
R’ Shamshon Raphael Hirsch notes that it was easier for Yakov, steadfast in his integrity, to endure a deceptive crook like Lavan for 20 years of injustice rather than face Esau, the man Yakov had wronged, for just one minute.
The Beis Halevi highlights that Yakov is afraid of two things; the hand of his brother, and the hand of Esau – מִיַּד אָחִי מִיַּד עֵשָׂו – and suggests what we all know to be true, that we can be destroyed by violence, sure, but the warm embrace of brotherhood can just as easily destroy us.
Throughout our history, we have lost so many to the hands of violence that strike and reject us, but how many have we lost to outstretch and open hands that beckon oh so invitingly? We need to be vigilant and remember that both are catastrophic.
If there’s a way for Yakov and Esau to make peace and get along in this world, it’s not going to be on Esau’s terms.