In this week’s parasha, Vayetze, Yaakov runs away from Be’er Sheva to Charan. He does this due to the events from the previous week where Esav swears to kill him after Yaakov steals the birthright.
In Charan, he stays and works for his uncle Lavan. Yaakov, who falls in love with Lavan’s younger daughter, Rachel, is promised her hand in marriage by Lavan in exchange for seven years of hard labour. After seven years, Yaakov gets married, but soon realises that Lavan tricked him into marrying Leah, the older sister, instead. He agrees to let Yaakov marry Rachel in return for another seven years of work. By the end of the parasha, Leah has given birth to 6 children, her handmaid Zilpah to two, Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah to two and Rachel to one boy: Yoseph. Yaakov eventually decides that he wants to leave Charan after 20 years, and in the middle of the night sneaks out of Lavan’s household with his wives, children and animals.
What I would like to focus on is this: was it necessary for Yaakov to run away from his family? He ran away because he was scared for his life, but would leaving behind your home, your family and everything you know the most reasonable decision? Could it have been an empty threat from Esav? This we’ll never know.
However, an explanation for Yaakov’s actions can be found in Pirkei Avot:
“Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: Do not try to appease your friend during his hour of anger; Nor comfort him at the hour while his dead still lies before him; Nor question him at the hour of his vow; Nor strive to see him in the hour of his disgrace” (Pirkei Avot 4:18)
In summary, you should not approach someone who is angry: it is best to leave them alone and try again later. One could argue that in an extreme sense, Yaakov did just that. He knew that approaching Esav in the moment wouldn’t lead to anything productive so he left him alone. This is only strengthened by the fact that Yaakov and Esav reconcile in next week’s parasha.
This is a sentiment which can be utilised in many different circumstances, especially during exams, which are coming up in a couple of weeks. It is important to try our hardest and study in order to do the best you can; however, it is also important to take a step back and take care of ourselves. Sometimes, the best we can do to help ourselves is to take time to breathe so that we can approach your challenges with an energised mind.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom!
Hannah, Grade 11