In Bereshis 33:13 it says

יג וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אֲדֹנִי יֹדֵעַ כִּי-הַיְלָדִים רַכִּים, וְהַצֹּאן וְהַבָּקָר, עָלוֹת עָלָי; וּדְפָקוּם יוֹם אֶחָד, וָמֵתוּ כָּל-הַצֹּאן.

Yaakov initially lists 3 causes for his inability to travel with Eisav.

  1. Tender/weak children
  2. nursing sheep
  3. nursing cattle

but at the end of the pasuk he only mentions that if pushed to travel quickly only the sheep will die. Why does he omit any averse effects on the children and cattle?

Note: I am aware of the Ramban's answer, which basically states that there was no other accurate and convenient way to state things, I'm looking for any other answers

  • 2
    Please share by adding the rambans answer as an answer post below!!
    – Double AA
    Nov 5, 2014 at 2:42
  • What @DoubleAA said. This page will be read by lots and lots of people who don't know the Ramban's answer. There can be multiple answers to one question, and I can't agree with excluding one of them from the realm of valid answers just because the asker happens to know it.
    – msh210
    Nov 5, 2014 at 3:44

1 Answer 1


Art Scroll Chumash on Bereishis 33:13 explains that a person does not say a bad thing because "al tiftach peh lasata". There are many stories in which someone utters something that he does not want to happen, but because he brought it up, it happens. Similarly, we see in the gemora statements like "the enemies of Yisrael will be punished" when it really means that the Bnai Yisrael will receive punishment. In this case, he carefully mentions only the minimum possible.

Jacob's primary concern was for his young children, but delicacy did not permit him to speak of their possible death, because, as the Sages put it "a covenant is made with the lips" (Moed Katan 18a), meaning that even an unintentional implication, much less an explicit statement, may allude to future unpleasant events. Such unintended prognostications often become fulfilled as if they were prophecy.

  • but he also omitted the cattle! Furthermore if the concern was opening his mouth to Satan he could have simply concluded with the fact that the children were young and the animals were nursing and let Eisav draw his own conclusions Nov 5, 2014 at 10:55
  • This isn't really different than the Ramban's answer.
    – Yishai
    Nov 5, 2014 at 16:06
  • I am not a farmer but maybe cattle are less susceptible than sheep to whatever conditions they would be under. In any case he was buying an excuse
    – CashCow
    Dec 1, 2014 at 11:10

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