“[Esau] then said [to Jacob], “Let us start on our way. I will go at your side” Genesis 33:12


We join Jacob and Esau towards the end of their conversation. We have followed Jacob on his way to this momentous meeting with his brother, Esau. We’ve felt Jacob’s fear, been alongside him after he wrestles with an ish (a mysterious man) and seen his transformation in name and in spirit.  

In a scene worthy of a Hollywood movie we imagine Jacob and Esau, surrounded by hundreds of their cattle, their men, their children and their wives, approaching each other from a distance,  each brother wondering how the other will greet them after many years apart and so much bad blood.  

Any tension is, apparently, dissipated as soon as we read that once Jacob, quite dramatically, approaches his brother by bowing seven times, Esau runs to meet him, embraces him, falls on his neck and kisses him. They then burst into tears.  

Yet many commentators are suspicious of this apparent happy reunion and to this end have focused on the unusual dots which appear over the word, “and [Esau] kissed him” in the Torah, and interpreted them to be a sign that there is more to that kiss than meets the eye.  

Additionally, Esau’s invitation “let us start on our way” indicates that there is a distance between these brothers that cannot be bridged, as we hear Esau suggesting to his brother that they continue journeying together. Jacob declines and replies by saying: you go ahead, and I will continue on my own path, at my own pace.  

Is this a sign, along with Esau’s confusing kiss, that the brothers are deeply estranged? I do not think so. For Jacob and Esau are able to do something which many of us find difficult. They meet each other as they are. Unlike their childhood, there is no pretending, no games, no deception or agenda and no promises of what will be. They know themselves, do as much as is required and deal honestly and bravely with each other.  

May we all have beautiful encounters as we recognise our own needs and deal honestly and bravely with each other — not determining the outcomes of our actions but living in the moment and being open to whatever follows.


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