From Genesis 33: 1 And Yaakov lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, Esav came, and with him four hundred men... 4 And Esav ran toward him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept. 5 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said: 'Who are these with thee?' And he said: 'The children whom God has graciously given your servant.'... 8 And he said: 'Who is for you all this camp which I met?' And he said: 'To find favor in the sight of my lord.' 9 And Esav said: 'I have enough; my brother, let that which is yours be yours.' 10 And Yaakov said: 'No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand. For this reason I have seen your face, it is like seeing the face of God -- and you were pleased with me. 11 Take, please, my blessing that is brought to you; because God has been gracious with me and because I have everything.', And he urged him, and he took it. 12 And he said: 'Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.'
Most of Parashat Vayishlach is filled with carefully, artfully written passages like this one. As Yaakov returns to the Land of Israel, he becomes aware that Esav is coming toward him with a large band. Is it a war party? The text heightens the anxiety into the very beginning of verse 4. Is Esav running with a sword, or is he running as Avraham did to greet travelers?
Then when the two brothers finally speak, the dynamics of power between them are fascinating. So much is between the lines. The blessings that their father Yitzchak had proclaimed to each of them have come true -- both are wealthy. Yet Yaakov refers to himself as "your servant." Is he trying to soften the words Yitzchak had said, that "nations would serve you [Yaakov]" and that "you [Esav] will serve your brother"? Who is on top in this dialogue? Is Yaakov simply freightened, uncertain of Esav's intentions?
And yet, Yaakov at the end offers Esav a gift from the wealth that he is bringing. He calls it first a gift, then he says Take, please, my blessing. A blessing or bracha in biblical Hebrew can certainly mean a gift out of one's substance. But surely this is twisting the knife. Esav could hear it on so many levels. Are you offering me your blessing, the one from Abba? Are you reminding me that despite my large army, you are the one with Abba's highest blessing, and God's ("for I have everything")? Why mention the hand, the very thing you and our mother used to cheat me out of the blessing?
But then again, Yaakov says that seeing Esav's face is like seeing the face of God. Of everything said between the brothers, surely this is the most genuine. Surely Yaakov would not take God's name in vain, not after wrestling with and being blessed by a being who may have been a messenger sent by God. Yaakov's words here bear out one interpretation of that episode from the previous chapter. Some say that the man represented Esav, or the memory of Esav with whom Yaakov has been wrestling since the womb. In Hebrew, there is a chain of word-association between the roots 'akav/ayin-koof-bet (Yaakov's name, also meaning "deceit" or "heel"), avak/aleph-bet-koof ("wrestle, struggle"), and chavak/chet-bet-koof ("embrace"). Even the nearby river -- Yabbok -- is in the act.
At the end of the passage, it's thoroughly unclear who suggested to whom that they should part ways. They leave each other either in peace, or at least without overt hostility.
In a few short lines, the Torah gives us a snapshot of family that resonates. Past history is present but unspoken, alluded to but not hashed out. Words are said that can be understood innocently or with less generous intent. The question of power is meaningful in the moment, but vanishes afterward when the brothers are no longer together.
For Yaakov, the meeting validates what the mysterious "man" had told him in conferring the new name Yisrael. For you struggle (sarita) with God and with people, and you have emerged [or "completed" or "been proven capable"...]. Yaakov's life has been a series of "close encounters." Wrestling in the womb, coming close enough for his blind father to touch, spending his wedding night with the wrong woman, facing down Lavan, wrestling with the "man", embracing his brother.
Each of these are the same. Each time Yaakov is facing his own identity, another person, a set of choices, and (therefore) God. Touching his brother, then separating from him, Yaakov returns to the "touch point" that has been there literally since his life began. It turns out that's where he has been ever since. And we too, always, for we are the children of Yisrael.