Make Peace, Make Prayer,
or Make War?
Vayishlach "And sent" [angels]
Genesis 32:4-36:43
Photo by  Timon Studler  on  Unsplash

It wasn't a surrender.  In Vayishlach, Jacob sends "angels" ahead of him to Esau. The word for angels, malakhim, can also mean "messengers."  This wordplay lends a supernatural tone to the Torah portion, a feeling deepened by the all-night wrestling match with a "man," who more likely was an angel.  There is the climactic meeting with Esau, and more strange language, for Jacob says that seeing Esau's face is like seeing the "face of God."  Vayishlach is full of dramatic inclines and declines, relief and angst.  

At the core of the portion, however, is something very personal to all of us.  We live our daily lives claiming that all we want is peace.  We want our families to live in peace, we want our jobs to be peaceful, and we want our relationship with the Divine to be one of peace.  Although Jacob's prayer when he left Canaan was to be returned "intact," or shalem, in peace, there seems to be more war than peace in his camp.  Those underlying reasons for Jacob's Trouble we addressed in more detail in the online classes this week.  It's something more simple that makes the portion memorable, though.  Three simple things.

In our daily lives, how do we know when to make peace, make prayer, or make war? By prayer I don't mean routine daily prayer, but the stubborn, desperate kind that Jacob prays when his life is in the balance.  The kind of dedication prayers when it's time to say thank you for answering prayers and for the blessings, a proper thanksgiving altar anointing.  One theme of the Torah portion is passionate prayer.

Another is making peace, or appeasement.  Not the state of peace, but the action of making it.  This can take several forms.  For the enemy who is marching toward you with superior numbers and unknown intent, it can be gifts of goods or words to appease him.  When you already know you're in trouble, a nice word, a Thinking About You greeting card, and a bouquet of flowers or Baskin Robbins gift certificate may not help, but it surely can't hurt.   Peace may be made with compromise or through contracts and treaties.  

To earn peace, at least one of the parties voluntarily or grudgingly diminishes himself. Shalom means more than peace; it means to be whole.  For there to be real peace instead of just a break in the action, the solution must aim for all parties to eventually be made whole in the agreement.  Wholeness doesn't mean that a person has everything that he had prior to the conflict.  He may shrink, yet still be intact, unharmed.  An inflated ego and ambition can be deflated without diminishing the real substance of the person.

The final option is war, either offensive or defensive.  A battle may be physical, verbal, or both.  War is strange thing.  If you're successful, then peace comes on your terms, not the vanquished party's.  If unsuccessful, it's the other way around. Conflict can occur at multiple levels, for we've all heard the adage, "He won the battle, but lost the war."  I'll add my own, "The one trying to have the last word is rarely walking in the Word."  

Conflict may be simple arguments, pushing matches, fights, battles, or wars.  It may be one-on-one or nations against nations.   In some situations, it is not an either/or proposition.  Some situations can simultaneously be peace and war accompanied by prayer.  What is peace for one party may be war for another, such as the issuance of a restraining order.  

Jacob makes three preparations for his confrontation with Esau.  First, he tries to appease Esau, he tries to make peace with multiple gifts and messages.  Second, he makes prayers, even wrestling all night for a blessing from Adonai.  What we miss is Jacob's third preparation.  Jacob prepares for war.  

Jacob divides his wives, children, cattle, and wealth into two camps.  He hopes for the best, but he prepares for the worst.  The second camp Jacob designates as a "refuge."  The implication is easy to miss.  If Esau overran the first camp, then he would easily overrun the second.  What Jacob is doing is providing a refuge for the first camp should Esau initiate an attack.  The plan is for them to retreat to the second camp for protection.  Why?  Because Jacob intends to fight for what is his. This far and no more.

A shepherd fights for his flocks, so how much more for his own family?  If all else fails, Jacob will stand and fight for the camp.    An old Russian proverb says, "Pray to God, but row for shore."  We ask for Heavenly help for peace in spiritual places, but we make every preparation to make peace the hard way on earth should someone attack our little children.  

Jacob was re-named after the wrestling match.  His first name, Ya'akov, implied someone who wins a battle by deceiving and pretending to be someone else.  His new name Israel reflects a new status, a Prince of God.  A prince will defend his territory and his people, especially the weak and defenseless.  Israel is a nation that openly, but humbly says, "Here I am. I'll seek peace and pursue it, but you can't do violence to my people.  This is where I stand in the Land.  No tricks.  I stand here because this is what El Shaddai has designated me to be."

What is the personal lesson?  We each must analyze our relationships.  The most important relationship we have is our wrestling within ourselves for an honest self-assessment.  Throughout each day, we have to decide Peace, Prayer, or War?  Or Peace and Prayer?  Or all three?  I don't suggest ever undertaking a War without Prayer and an attempt at Peace.  

For those who want to see this pattern in the Torah portion, I offer the following homework exercise.  The entire Torah portion is broken into passages below.  Set up four columns on a sheet of paper and assign each passage one or more of the following categories:

Not sure

For "Peace," is the person actively making peace by appeasing, accommodating, or trying to help another?

For "Prayer," is the person making an act of worship either through direct prayer or another type of worship, such as building an altar?

For "Zeal," is the person passionate about his actions, either in a positive or negative way?  This usually produces conflict.  

For "Not sure," it means that there is no agreement, or you just aren't sure if the passage is outside the scope of the assignment.

It will make a better Bible study if you have several people who can argue different ways of looking at the passage.  More passages will end up in multiple categories when more people analyze them.  The final ones with the genealogies will be more difficult without additional commentary such as Rashi's, which will point out negative "zeal" in cases of incest or prohibited mixtures in Seir.  You may want to skip those passages.

Here are your Vayishlach study passages, and Shabbat Shalom!

Ge 32:4-6



Much of this newsletter alludes to past teaching.  Feel free to scour the newsletter archives at for past issues.   I hope to teach the Rivers of Eden, the Feasts, and the Lower Garden more completely at our Creation Conference with Brad Scott May 3-5, 2019.  Stay tuned for registration details.

 If you're joining us for the Passover seder and Israel tour, we need you to register by DECEMBER 15!  We must meet the minimum number of registrants by a certain date to retain our lodging accommodations.

Passover at Tamar Park 2018

Tour Dates:
April 14 - 25 2019

$2,495 (airfare not included)

Tour Includes:
  • Hotels
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner (except April 24)
  • National Park Passes
  • Masada Lift
  • Galilee Boat
  • Bus transfer to and from Ben Gurion Airport
  • All tips (except housekeeping)
  • All meals at Biblical Tamar Park
Not Included:
  • Lunches
  • Flight/Trip insurance
  • Airline Ticket
At Passover, our tour will focus on the Biblical teaching of resurrection. We will study the process of death, burial, post-mortem experience, and two resurrections from Genesis to Revelation. Specific sites along the journey will offer the opportunities to stand on the ground where biblical events and prophecy of the nations will take place. 

Are you coming?

To read the itinerary and register, go to 


Goverment health officials inspected LeMalah, and they commended the Centre in many areas.  They also had some recommendations like tiles for all wash rooms, ceiling finish work, paint, and a fence, which your generous donations have now covered and will be disbursed with First Quarter funds. They have planted a kei-Apple fence and believe it's just a matter of time, and that problem will be solved. You can see how much they enjoyed Sukkot!  More pictures are posted on our facebook page.  

Unfortunately, one of the milk cows died, and some of the older students will be entering high school, which incurs higher school fees.   If you'd like to contribute toward monthly support of the Children's Centre (or two other children's homes, one in India and one in Peru) or become a monthly donor, please visit our website at