In our Torah portion this week,
VaYishlach, we read about the reconciliation between Jacob and his brother Esau. Last they had seen each other, Jacob had obtained Esau's birthright and fled from their home, fearing Esau's retribution. Now, with their impending meeting, Jacob is scared that Esau will finally have his revenge. But when they finally meet -
VaYishaKeHu - Esau Kisses his brother Jacob, and it appears as if all is forgiven.
Yet the rabbis prefer to read it as -
VaYishak - which means to bite, suggesting that Esau actually bit his brother instead of kissing him. They turn what could have been embraced as a beautiful moment of forgiveness, reconciliation and growth, into one of pain, hatred, and rivalry. Esau is far from perfect, yet seems to be treated quite unfairly by rabbinic commentators. He is understood by tradition as one of the most hated characters in all of rabbinic literature, which I think is somewhat unfair and unfortunate.
Sometimes, when we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue from others, we have a tendency to vilify or exaggerate the opposition, perhaps over analyze the motivations and acts of the other side. Doing so helps us feel better about our own positions, but further fuels and perpetuates hatred and acts of violence. The world rarely exists in absolutes. People aren't usually all bad, all good, always right, or always wrong.
If we have a chance for true reconciliation and to come together in spite of our differences and disagreements, we owe it to ourselves and those whom we disagree with, to be open minded. That way, instead of using our disagreements and differences to drive us further apart, we can embrace them as an opportunity for growth, reconciliation, and as a force for good.
Wishing you all