Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher, major commentator on the Torah (c. 1340)

Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher writes at the beginning of Vayishlach: We must follow in the footsteps of the Avos and prepare ourselves to approach the gentiles with gifts, with soft speech and with prayer before Hashem. But war is impossible, for it is written (Shir Hashirim 2:7), “I adjured you, daughters of Jerusalem…” Hashem made the Jewish people swear not to wage wars against the nations.

Later Esav proposed to Yaakov, “Let us travel and go, and I will go by your side” (Bereishis 33:12), and Yaakov declined. Rabbeinu Bachya explains that Esav wanted to split this world with Yaakov. Yaakov, however, said, “My master knows that the children are weak” – the Jewish people will be weak in mitzvos – “and if they pressure them in one day all the sheep will die” – without the atonement of exile they will be sent to Gehinom on the day of judgment and they will not be able to bear the suffering. Therefore, said Yaakov, “Let my master pass before his servant” – you take this world first – “and I will travel in my lowliness” – I will stay in my exile and lowliness. I will not wage any war and I will not rise up in exile at all, but rather “according to the work that is before me” – I will bear the yoke of subjugation. And until when will the subjugation last? “Until I come to master, to Seir.”


Yaakov and Esav

Rabbinic Quotations