PARASHAT VAYISHLACH (AND HE SENT)
BERESHEET (GENESIS 32:3 (4 IN THE HEBREW BIBLE) – 36:43)
HAFTARAH: OBADIAH 1:1–21
As I was preparing to write this week’s blog entry, I was puzzled by the extreme differences between the beautiful story of reconciliation between Jacob and Esau in our parasha and the judgment that we find on Esau (Edom) in our haftarah. I spent some time praying and meditating upon this issue and I believe that I may have found a few explanations for this disparity, which I will try to address in this short blog entry, despite the fact that there is much more that could be said about it.
As I wrote, in our parasha portion, we learn of the beautiful story of reconciliation between Jacob and Esau. The climax of the of the story is found in Genesis 33:4, “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” This shows an immense amount of love between the two brothers, as well as a changed heart and a desire to reconcile and reconnect. It is interesting that we find a very similar emotional exchange in the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:20. As we continue to read, we see that after that moment, both Jacob and Esau each went to a different place since they were greatly blessed by God and had plenty with them.
This seems like a happy ending, but if we read the Scriptures, we see that it was everything but. So, what changed? At the end of the parasha portion, we read, “Now this is the genealogy of Esau (that is, Edom)” (Genesis 36:1). What does this tell us? Well, the word “genealogy” indicates passing down through generations. I personally believe that the story of what Jacob “did” to Esau was passed down to Esau’s descendants and that, as a result, we find a root of non-forgiveness, pride, jealousy, struggle of acceptance and bitterness that may have passed on. In other words, a generational hatred of Jacob, and by extension, of the children of Israel, was possibly passed down through generations of Edomites.
This idea is echoed in our haftara portion of Obadiah, where we read:
The vision of Obadiah. This is what the LORD God says to Edom. We have heard a report from the LORD, and a messenger has been sent among the nations saying, “Arise, and let’s go up against her for war. Behold, I will made you small among the nations; you are greatly despised. The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, the one who lives in the clefts of the rock, on the height of his dwelling place, who says in his heart, ‘Who will bring me down to earth?’ Though you make your home high like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.
As we read in these verses, Edom (Esau and his descendants) allowed arrogance to enter their hearts, thinking that they are above everyone, being stronger and wiser than them. Yet, God said that He would bring him (Esau/Edomites) down.
As we continue to read — and I strongly suggest that you read the short book of Obadiah — we find a set of verses that connect to our parasha:
Because of violence to your brother Jacob, shame will cover you, and you will be cut off forever. On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem, you too were as one of them. Do not gloat over your brother’s day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah on the day of their destruction; yes, do not boast on the day of their distress. Do not enter the gate of My people on the day of their disaster. You indeed, do not gloat over their catastrophe on the day of their disaster. And do not lay a hand on their wealth on the day of their disaster. Do not stand at the crossroads to eliminate their survivors; and do not hand over their refugees on the day of their distress.
Edom (Esau) will be judged for standing aside and not coming to Jacob’s (Israel) help in their time of need. Not only that, but there will also be judgment for gloating in Israel’s suffering! God’s judgment on Edom for standing aside during Israel’s suffering will be severe, meaning they will be cut off from this earth.
Could this truth also speak to a time in the future as well, perhaps not just in regards to the Edomites, but to all the nations? Is it possible that this is a similar warning to what Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) wrote to the Roman believers in Romans 11 — and by extension to all Gentile believers — to not allow arrogance to creep in their hearts towards the Jewish people, or that they would be cut off from the Olive tree?
The reality is that the nations’ arrogance will cause them to gather against Jerusalem; the Scriptures are clear about this (Zechariah 12:3; 14:2). Those of you who are outside the land, and are part of the “nations” will have a choice to make — to join those coming against Jerusalem or to stand against them. Please note that standing aside and doing nothing is equal to joining them, and you will be judged by God for doing so.
Standing for the truth is never easy, but it is always worthwhile.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.