Does the principle of Esav Soneh L'Yaakov mean that all non-Jews harbor anti-Semitism to some extent? Will even the most seemingly benign non-Jew you meet feel a little bit of hostility towards you deep down?

  • 1
    Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer applied this principle to all non-Jews (Even HaAzel, Melachim 5:1) (see: cross-currents.com/2006/09/05/is-antisemitism-universal). However, the author of the mentioned article writes "The depth of regard and love for Jews I have seen in many non-Jews is so deep and widespread, that I would have a hard time believing that even the view that expands Esav beyond the Biblical individual means all non-Jews without exception." - see also this topic: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/106388/27180
    – Shmuel
    Jan 31, 2022 at 18:24
  • 1
    Well according to Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai there was an exception to the rule even with esav himself who is the mekor for it.
    – sam
    Feb 2, 2022 at 3:37
  • Is there a particular reason that you would think that it might mean that?
    – Alex
    Feb 2, 2022 at 23:39
  • @Alex Because I understood "Esav" in that line as referring to the non-Jewish world.
    – Menachem
    Feb 3, 2022 at 15:09
  • 4
    @Menachem Now that I see that your assumptions are based on the word "halachah", I can refer you to this answer which discusses what "halachah" means (or doesn't mean), and this answer which mentions an alternative text that doesn't have the word "halachah" in the first place.
    – Alex
    Feb 7, 2022 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


The Lubavitcher Rebbe in his work, Shulchan Shabbos (see here for the article) explains the following:

יש בכך לקח ברור ונצחי בעניין ההתייחסות הנכונה לתקופת הגלות, כאשר יהודים נתונים לשלטונם של הגויים: מצד אחד, אל ליהודי לתלות את מבטחו בגויים, במלכות אדום, שכן "הלכה היא, בידוע שעשיו שונא ליעקב". לאידך-גיסא, יש בכוחו של יהודי לגרום לכך, שגם במצב של שנאה לעם-ישראל, יהיה "נכמרו רחמיו ונשקו בכל לבו".

כאשר יהודי עומד בתוקף על יהדותו, ומציג התנהגות גאה של יהודי הדבק בתורה ובמצוות, עד שהוא מודיע לעשיו - "עם לבן גרתי ותרי"ג מצוות שמרתי"6 - משפיע הדבר גם על בני אומות-העולם, עד שנכמרים רחמיהם והם מסייעים ליהודי בכל צרכיו, כדי שיוכל ללכת בדרכו, עד לקיום הייעוד7 "ועלו מושיעים בהר-ציון... והיתה לה' המלוכה".

Source: (מאת הרבי מליובאוויטש, מתוך הספר "שלחן שבת", מעובד על-פי ספר-השיחות כרך כ, עמ' 144)

So, according to the Rebbe, there are "two sides of the coin", e.g. side on is the eternal hate, based on the principle of Esav Soneh L'Yaakov, on the other side, there is the possibilty to "soften their hearts".

This is also the language of the Sforno, in his commentary to Bereishis 33:4:

וירץ עשו, his attitude changed suddenly when he realised to what extent Yaakov had humbled himself before him. It is of great concern to us seeing that we live among the descendants of Esau, people who are arrogant, consider themselves invincible. Yaakov’s conduct vis a vis Esau teaches that the only way to escape the sword of Esau is through self degradation and gifts.

There is also a wonderful somewhat mystical insight given by the Shelah:

The good is mixed in with the bad. This is the mystical dimension of Esau's offer in 33, 15: אציגה נא עמך מן העם אשר אתי, "Let me assign you some of the people who are with me." There is a hidden reference in this to the proselytes and their influence on the Jewish people.

The Shelah explains that the "good is mixed in with the bad", e.g. within the "descendants of Esav", there are also good people, people who are drawn close to G-d

However, please note that the Rabbeinu Bahya explains that the kiss of Esav was not sincere and was rooted in anger:

Here the reason they placed these dots was to let us know that this kiss was not whole-hearted. It was a kiss which originated in anger.

Esav Soneh L'Yaakov is described as Halacha, in that just as Halacha never changes, so too will this principle never change. But, to be honest, that does not mean that all descendants of Esav are bad. It is our duty to "soften their hearts", to be a light unto the nations.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .