Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
How do we approach dangerous challenges? In this week's Torah portion, Yaakov Avinu returns to the Land of Israel and readies himself for a meeting with his brother Esav, who is also his enemy. Rashi tells us that Yaakov employs three tactics prior to this meeting: Yaakov prepares to give gifts, prepares to pray, and prepares for battle.
Gifts: He sends his brother a prodigious tribute of goats, sheep, camels, cattle, and donkeys in order to appease him. When confronting danger, first of all, we need to assume a pleasant, generous, and optimistic attitude in a wholehearted attempt to make peace.
Prayer: Yaakov Avinu knows physical self-exertion and tireless extra effort in this world are important, but not enough. We need to invest ourselves spiritually as well. Not everything depends on us. Yaakov prays and makes supplications from the bottom of his heart, as expressed in these famous words: "I am unworthy of all your kindnesses . . . Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav."
Battle: We do not want to fight, but sometimes we must. Sometimes we must eradicate evil. Yaakov is prepared should Esav resort to violence and acts with wisdom should such a scenario unfold.
This is not a story from a history book, but a message that teaches us about three essential tools for living. The Ramban writes that we must learn from this Torah portion when it's the proper time to utilize each tool. In Ramban's words: "It is fitting for us to adhere to the path of the tzadik." In other words, we need to assess every situation in order to comprehend when it is appropriate to give gifts, to pray, or to prepare for battle. May each of us succeed in matching the tool needed to the challenge at hand.