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When reading Parshat Vayishlach I wondered about the many gifts that Jacob assembled for his estranged brother, Eisav, as he prepared to meet him, years after they had separated hastily and with great enmity. The language is clear that Jacob feared the meeting with his brother; he feared for his life and the lives of his family.
In creating this poem, I tried to look differently at this momentous moment in Jaob's and Eisav's lives. I thought to reduce the moment in time and in meaning to the essential bond that exists between siblings; especially between twins. I tried to see past the wealth, the power and the complications of birthright and look back to what was and the potential for forgiveness that always exists, if we allow it to enter into our lives.
The best gifts were not the camels, not the ewes nor the sheep. Not the bulls nor the asses.
The gift was seeing that walk again,
that distinctive heavy gait
The glint of red in his beard, graying now
Even now, after so much time has passed.
Even from a distance you recognized him
as he approached.
Your mouth is dry
and you began to tremble,
yes, from fear,
you trembled upon seeing a brother long lost,
a twin with whom
you shared a tent
and two parents.
Once, so long ago, you held his heel
as you entered the world.
Once, so long ago
you sat together
and played and tumbled
and teased and laughed
as brothers do.
You search into his eyes
And you see past this stranger
You look deeper and you see your father,
in the shape and color of his eyes
and when you look deeper
you find yourself
reflected in the depths.
It is in your brother’s eyes
that you return home.
A sheep, a camel
may be gifts.
They may provide wealth, status
But your gift is your brother.
The gift is forgiveness
A thousand sheep cannot buy forgiveness
The best gifts are not the sheep,
but holding your brother in your arms
After all this time
Your tears on his neck,
his tears on your cheeks.
After dreams and ladders,
angels and fears,
tears and memories,
wrongs and rights,
and sleepless nights
And one endless night fighting an angel
you have found the strength
to ask for forgiveness.
You hold each other
and once again you are young
two small brothers.
Two halves that fit snugly together,
a completed puzzle.
As you hold him
for those few moments
forgiveness echoes in your ears,
Forget about the she-goats and the camels;
even your wives and many children.
For those few
time stood still
and forgiveness was the gift
offered and received
that morning in Peni-el
Photograph from Fallon Michael from Wix Stock Images
After spending the night there, he selected from what was at hand these presents for his brother Esau:
200 she-goats and 20 he-goats; 200 ewes and 20 rams;
30 milch camels with their colts; 40 cows and 10 bulls; 20 she-asses and 10 he-asses.
And you shall add, ‘And your servant Jacob himself is right behind us.’” For he reasoned, “If I propitiate him with presents in advance, and then face him, perhaps he will show me favor.”
Text taken from Sefaria