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Spots are hard to change but easy to notice

One of the more perplexing questions that is raised in this week’s Torah reading is why Yaakov sends agents and messengers to Eisav to inform his brother of his return to the land of Israel. King Solomon in Proverbs had already advised to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. So why should Yaakov place himself in a situation of anticipated danger and difficulty when it could have been avoided.

 There are many insights and comments that have been expressed over the ages regarding this problem.  We all are aware that deep within each of us there is a psychological desire to attempt to correct what we may deem to be a past error of judgment or behavior. In fact, the entire Jewish concept of repentance is built on this and can be mobilized for good and positive purposes. This impulse is usually sublimated when current events constantly impinge upon our lives.
We are busy making a living, raising a family, engaging in a profession or business, studying or teaching, and we have little time to think and recall all our past misdeeds and errors.  In fact, we become so involved in our lives, that we almost forget our past behaviors. But, as is often the case, the past gnaws upon us, and eventually gives us no rest until and unless we attempt to somehow correct what we feel was wrong and even shameful.
Yaakov is aware that he obtained both the birthright and the blessings from his brother by questionable means. The issue remains basically unresolved, for the verses in the Torah remain explicit, unchangeable, and eternal. It is perfectly understandable that our father Yaakov should try somehow to make amends to his brother for the past times that Eisav, wrongly or rightly, felt that he was taken advantage of and deprived of what was really his. And he had 20 years to think about his behavior.
Considering this, it is perfectly understandable why Yaakov behaves in the way he did and bestows upon Eisav such exaggerated gifts. It may be his attempt to square things and to defuse the bitterness of the past. It is not so much that Eisav should be mollified, but, rather, that Yaakov should become refreshed and more at peace with himself regarding his eternal mission of building the Jewish people – a mission which requires that he possess the birthright and the blessings of his father Yitzchak.
Only people who are at peace with themselves can really be constructive and positive in life, for them and others. It is this realization that impels Yaakov to seek out his brother before establishing himself in the land of Israel and beginning to fulfill the mission and the blessings that were rightly given to him. Instead of just sneaking back home.
In  Torah Parsha, “Toldot” we read the famous story of Jacob taking the blessing of Esau by deceit. 

After learning of the deceit, Esau vows to kill Jacob. He says that he will not kill Jacob until after his father dies, but Rebecca received this report by divine inspiration as she was a prophet.The Or HaChaim states that she was afraid that Jacob’s daily proximity would inflame Esau so much that he might lose control of himself and kill Jacob while Isaac was still alive.


She revealed the prophecy to Jacob saying “Behold, your brother Esau is consoling himself regarding you to kill you. So now, my son, heed my voice and arise: flee to my brother Laban, to Haran. And remain with him a short while until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there; why should I be bereaved of both of you on the same day! (Genesis 27:42-44)

As it turns out, the twin brothers did not die on the same day, but they were buried in the cave of Hevron on the same day ( Holy Yakov wholly; headstrong Eisav, only his head).

The short while turned out to be over 20 years. Rebbeca never sees Jacob again.

The Sefer Haflaah was written by Rabbi Pinchas HaLevi Horowitz of Nikelsburg (1730-1805) who was the rabbi of Frankfurt and the author of Sefer Hafla’ah and Sefer HaMikneh — commentaries on the Talmud — and Panim Yafot, an exegesis on the Torah. Rabbi Pinchas and his brother Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke were students of the Mezritcher Maggid. They were amongst the first adherents to the Chassidic movement to hold rabbinic posts in Germany. The famed Rabbi Moshe Sofer, known as the Chatam Sofer, considered Rabbi Pinchas to be one of his main teachers.

Rabbi Horowitz says that Rivka implied the following: Runaway to my brother Laban and wait until your brother gets over his anger. How will you know when that time has arrived and he is no longer angry at you? When you yourself stop holding a grudge against him. Rivka understood the reciprocity of human emotions. Love is reciprocated with love, and hatred elicits a like response in others.

There’s a common kind of pop psychology that suggests that if you see a problem in someone else, you should assume it’s because that same problem applies to you. For example, if you are annoyed by a coworker who is a big self-promoter, the implication is that you’re annoyed because you too are a self-promoter. If you spot it, you got it.

Projection, a well-known cornerstone of psychological defense, distracts our awareness of our own undesirable traits by making us “see” those traits in others. The tough question implied is not, “How do I deal with this difficult person?” but “What is this person showing me that I don’t want to know about myself?”

‘You spot it, you got it’ occurs when we get irritated by behavior in others, which we are choosing to deny in ourselves. In other words, what I hate the most in you, maybe what I hate the most in me.

Our hypocrisy comes from the fact that we have blind spots. We simply can’t see those parts of ourselves that we condemn in others. Or we choose not to. But by raising our self-awareness and understanding the ‘you spot it you got it’ phenomenon, we can start to reduce those blind spots and accept all the parts of ourselves. When we own our flaws we become aware of our triggers and are less likely to become irritated when we see them in other people.

Our brains are funny things. We invariably experience more of any thought or feeling when we try to avoid it. Let’s try something. For the next 10 seconds to not think about pink elephants. Go. Of course, you will think about pink elephants.

Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world. So, what we experience repeatedly is an opportunity for us to learn something about ourselves. For example, if you are constantly experiencing aggressive behavior in others and are triggered by it, if there’s a consistent pattern and certain thoughts become very dominant, then there’s a good chance that you have what you’re spotting.

This opportunity to learn is never more apparent than with our children. Children are great mirrors. The things that wind us up about our kids are often an indication that there is something to get curious about within our own psyche. Remember this the next time you scream at your kids to stop shouting.

If you want to get technical, ‘you spot it you got it’ is a psychological defense mechanism where our subconscious denies our own thoughts, attributes, or emotions and then ascribes them to other people. It validates the theory that you cannot experience a feeling, emotion, or trait, if you don’t have an inner experience of it. You have to have a connection to be able to notice it in others and when it triggers a negative response in you, it is because you are denying it in yourself.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. The good news is that ‘you spot it you got it’ works positively too. If you find yourself inspired by someone who is creative, intellectual, a great communicator, or visionary, you must have an inner experience of that which you admire, to be able to notice it in others. Furthermore, it might be that this trait is bursting to get out and you are suppressing it. The wonderful possibilities are endless.

When something triggers us, the degree of emotional response is an indicator that there is something within us to be healed. Pay attention. Observe your anger or frustration and immediately own whatever it is. When you have healed that which is ready to be healed, one of two things will happen – either you will quit drawing that particular behavior into your life or you will notice that it no longer bothers you at all.

It appears that it took Yakov 20 years to forgive himself for his action of taking his brother’s blessing. Other commentators said the birth of Joseph, gave him the strength to face Esau. In any case, one must pay attention to the idea, “If you spot it you got!”

Speaking of self-awareness, did you hear the story of the lady on the Egged bus here in Jerusalem?

A lady was riding an Egged bus in Jerusalem was reading a newspaper article about life and death statistics. Fascinated, she turned to the man next to her and said, “Did you know that every time I breathe somebody dies?”

“Really!?” he said. “Have you tried mouthwash?”


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Yehuda Lave is an internationally known speaker, lecturer, journalist, author, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and life coach, with degrees in business, psychology, Jewish and American Law. His motto: Remember, it only takes a moment to change your life. Learn to have all the joy in your life that you deserve!!! Subscribe to his free daily blog by sending an email to [email protected]