My wife went with a few women this week on a morning “hike”, just to get out. She couldn’t help but contrast it with the ones that my friend Uri and I would do. Her “hike” was a walking trail. One woman brought muffins for everybody. One brought a first-aid kid. One brought pepper-spray (I kid you not). They all brought plenty of water and emergency rations. And even though it was on a trail… THEY STILL GOT LOST, because they spent the whole-time yacking with each other.
She compared it to our HIKES. Where we were in the middle of the desert, climbing mountains, for seven hours at a time. We’ve been to places where we were yelled at by professionals for being stupid enough to do by ourselves without safety equipment (they say ‘stupid’, we say… ‘yeah, okay, that was stupid’). And all we needed was ONE bottle of water. One box of Mike & Ikes. And ONE sandwich. And gosh darn it, we were happy!
Another difference in the genders. And yes, gosh darn it… I don’t live in America, so I can say that!
“But he [Yaakov] said to him [Eisav], ‘My lord knows that the children are tender…’” (Bereishis 33:13).
After escaping Lavan, Yaakov finally returns to Eretz Yisroel, only to meet up with Eisav. After much preparation, the two brothers meet in “friendship.” Eisav offers himself and his troops to be an escort for Yaakov, his family and retinue, to which Yaakov respectfully declines saying that it will be difficult for the children and animals to move at any quick pace. And why should Eisav take up so much of his important time to escort such a slow-going caravan?
A question was gnawing at me. Animals? Okay, I understand that. You have sheep and goats, and they are not used to fast pace travel. But what of the children? Many of them were older already (older being in their early to mid-teens). Today, travel doesn’t bother teenagers, all the more so back then, when teenagers were entrusted with far more responsibility. Not only that, but they weren’t walking the whole time. Yaakov was very wealthy. Obviously, they rode on camels, donkeys, or horses, and most likely “in style.” And finally, on their escape from Lavan, the Torah makes note of the impressive speed they travelled. Now, Yaakov is worried about “the tender children”?
I gave thought to this as my wife was speaking to me about something she deemed important, whatever that was…
An idea that came to my mind is this. As we know, Eisav represents the Yetzer Horah for the Jewish nation. According to many commentaries, it was his “guiding angel” that Yaakov fights shortly beforehand. Perhaps Yaakov was not speaking of the physical strain on his children, but rather the spiritual. And his “children” are not literally “children,” but also his descendants.
The more time we spend in a spiritually poisoned atmosphere, the more it will have an effect on us. Yaakov did not want to have Eisav around. Period. He knew that behind this “friendly and helpful” face lay somebody who is interested in Yaakov’s destruction, and the more time spent around such a “friend,” the weaker his “tender children” will be.
Another possible insight is how Yaakov was worried about the fast pace of Eisav. This, I believe, is a sign of whether or not we, as individuals, are facing the Yetzer Horah. The Yetzer Horah does not want you to think. He wants swiftness. He wants action. He does not want you to think about what you are doing. I recently saw a suggestion to somebody who feels like he has an urge to do an avreira. It was suggested not to say "no" to that urge. Not to fight it. Rather…simply say, “Okay, I’ll do it!... in another 30 minutes.” And when that 30 minutes comes, there is a good chance that you will no longer have the urge, or the urge will be less, so … give it another 30 minutes.
Eisav would rather have you move to action quickly and without thought.
So, perhaps this is what Yaakov was referring to when he was speaking of his tender children. He was not so much focused on his immediate family, but also us, his future descendants.