Genuineness in our relationships is critical. At the beginning of our parsha (32:5), Yaakov instructs his messengers, “This you shall say to my master to Eisav: ‘So said your servant Yaakov: I have sojourned with Lavan …’”
We notice that even when speaking privately to his own servants, Yaakov refers to Eisav as “his master.” This would seem odd. Certainly, Yaakov recognized his spiritual superiority, and knew as well that he had been given the blessing to rule over his brother. While we can appreciate his adoption of humble language, “your servant, Yaacov,” in the diplomatic message he sends his brother; why would he refer to Eisav as “his master” in private, as well?
Clearly, Yaakov was not ready to present or to be represented with a false standard. He would only ask his servants to address Eisav as “the master,” if he would use the same language privately. And he could honestly do so, as — while he was undoubtedly mindful of his moral and spiritual superiority — he retained an awareness of Eisav being the older brother, and occupying a powerful worldly position relative to Yaakov. When he said it, he meant it (see the Ramban there).
This quality carries forward to the next generation, as we see in next week’s parsha (37:4), where we read how the brothers of Yosef could not speak with him peacefully. Rashi notes that while the situation described was negative — it, nevertheless, highlights their integrity — as they did not present themselves as friends, while harboring hatred in their hearts.
Our relationships with those around us — family, friends, community and colleagues — are the fundamental elements of our lives. It is critical that we convey a true sense of those bonds, by being real and honest.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer is executive vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.