By Rabbi Avraham Gordimer

“Thus says your servant Yaakov, ‘I lived with Lavan and tarried there until now.'” (Bereshis 32:6) Rashi comments on this pasuk (verse) by invoking the Midrashic explanation that Yaakov indicated to Eisav, who appeared to be approaching Yaakov for combat, “I lived with Lavan and observed the 613 Mitzvos and did not learn from his evil ways.”

The obvious question is why Yaakov felt that it would be beneficial to tell Eisav about his (Yaakov’s) piety when residing with Lavan. Did Yaakov think that Eisav would be impressed and suddenly warm up to him? Eisav was a rasha (evildoer); why should he care about Yaakov’s observance?

Eisav’s strongest asset was his outgoing, energetic approach. Yitzchak – who was unaware of Eisav’s real attitudes – felt that the extroverted, outgoing personality of Eisav was best fit to build and lead the Jewish nation, and Eisav himself placed great value on his stamina and drive.

This is why Yaakov emphasized to Eisav that he observed the Mitzvos in Lavan’s house and was not influenced by Lavan. Yaakov wished to show Eisav that he – Yaakov – had determination like steel and was a personality that Eisav would not wish to challenge. Eisav needed to understand that the virtues which gave him a self-perceived superiority were actually superior in Yaakov, and that is why Yaakov stressed his personal stamina and fortitude to Eisav.

Originally appears on YUTorah

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