This is a short summary of the previous week's Torah portion, Parashas Vayischlach, with some of my own thoughts added.
This parashas details the many events that unfolded when Jacob returned to Eretz Israel.
Jacob was on his way back home home to Eretz Israel with his wives and his children after having spent many years away form home working for Laban.
Jacob first sent angels (sometimes also interpreted as messengers) to inform his brother Esau of his return.
He was then informed by the messengers that he had sent that his brother Esau was approaching with four hundred men in tow.
Hearing this, Jacob undertook a threefold preparation for the imminent encounter with his brother Esau.
These are the three things Jacob did:
Firstly, Jacob prayed to Hashem to save him and his family.
Secondly, he tried to appease his brother Esau by sending gifts (in the form of animals).
Thirdly, he prepared for war.
The night before Jacob's and Esau's fateful encounter, Jacob decided to go back to get some earthenware vessels he had forgotten. When he was by himself, an angel attacked him. Fighting throughout the night, Jacob managed to overthrow the angel. The angel tells Jacob that he will soon be called "Israel", as he prevailed over both men and the divine – as represented by the angel. It is generally understood that the angel represents the angel of Esau, whose angel is the Angel of Death.
Jacob, his family, and his nation have no intermediary. Their affairs are settled by G'd directly.
When the two brothers, Jacob and Esau, finally meet, Esau hugs and kisses his brother Jacob. Overjoyed at seeing his brother again, Esau cries with tears in his eyes. Hashem saved Jacob and his family.
Jacob then finally makes his return to Eretz Israel and settles in Shechem. Dinah, Jacob's daughter, gets abducted and violated by a prince by the name of Shechem.
To avenge their sister's and their family's honour, Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi fought against the prince and his people.
Rebecca, Jacob's mother, and her wet nurse died, and so did Rachel, Jacob's wife, just after she gave birth to her second son Benjamin. Her grave is known until this day.
While there is a lot to learn from each individual event happening in this
parashas, I want to focus on one event in particular:
Jacob's preparation for his encounter with Esau represents an instance of the Torah's wisdom that the sages teach us to apply when faced with similar situations as Jacob, i.e. meeting an adversary.
I would even claim that Jacob's preparation for his encounter with Esau can be used in other situations that we face in every day life.
For instance, when preparing for an exam, or a certification at school,
university, or work, one should do the following:
Firstly, one should pray to Hashem.
Secondly, one should give gifts to teachers and examiners. Often, this is not possible or acceptable. In that case, one should treat the examiners with a lot respect and honour. This would then be the gift one is giving, although one could argue that the Torah demands us to treat everyone with this kind of respect and honour naturally.
Thirdly, one should prepare for the exam / certification thoroughly.