Unmaking Assumptions
Parashat VaYishlach

Dena Weiss

In this week’s parashah, Ya’akov’s long sojourn away from his parents and from his homeland comes to an end.  Although twenty years have elapsed, the memory of why Ya’akov had to leave, the fact that his brother Esav had threatened his life, is still quite fresh in Ya’akov’s mind.  Much of the energy Ya’akov expends at the beginning of this parashah is focused on preparing for his reunion with his brother, which Ya’akov assumes will be confrontational and dangerous.  Ya’akov expects the worst and prepares for the worst, sending his brother demonstrations of his own wealth, power, and security, attempting to bribe his brother.  He even strategically splits his children into separate camps so that there would be survivors in the event of war. However, a close examination of the story yields that much of this preparation was unnecessary and counterproductive.  We have a lot to learn from Ya’akov’s fear in this moment about our own fear, about assumptions that we make about other people and that they make about us, and about what we could do, perhaps, to move away from suspicion and towards reconciliation.  

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Unmaking Assumptions
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