In Parshas Vayishlach, the Torah details the gift Yaakov sent to Esav, consisting of hundreds of animals of various types. Why did Yaakov only send animals? Why not send other things like gold, clothing, and so on?
3What about the servants– MenachemDec 2, 2014 at 16:41
There are two things that would contradict your assumptions in your question.
1 - Rashi on Breishit 32:14 cites a Midrash saying that Ya'akov included precious stones and diamonds.
2 - Breishit 36:6-7 states that Esav had a lot of herds / cattle and because he had so much the land was not big enough to hold both his and Ya'akov's cattle, which is one of the reasons why he separated and went to Se'ir.
Despite the fact that he had a lot, Esav was a glutton who always wanted more as is implied in his statement in Breishit 33:9 "I have a lot...". (Compare with Ya'akov's statement in verse 11, where Ya'akov says, "I have everything".)
So, it made some sense that Ya'akov's gift to Esav would be mainly animals, despite the fact that Esav had many already.
6Why would 'Esav's having too many animals to care for mean it was a good gift for Ya'akov to send him even more animals?– Seth JDec 2, 2014 at 15:28
Ramban (verse 14) says it's because that's what he had at hand.
I have also seen that Yaakov was hinting that the bracha (which was mainly agricultural) had not helped him. The bracha from Hashem was in his flocks which had not been mentioned by Yitzchak. Yaakov was also hinting that everything he had was from the hard work and knowledge of husbandry which he had as well as a bracha from Hashem granted to him while he was with Lavan. None of it came from the bracha of Yitzchak or from the bechorah.
Note that the animals were sent in precisely calibrated amounts (female to male) in order to show that Yaakov knew exactly what was appropriate for each kind of animal. Additionally, the fact that he sent nursing camels meant that he had succeeded in breeding camels. He did not send adult males because Eisav could not have bred them. This was something that was very difficult at that time and in that region. Note that the fact that Avraham had sent ten camels to Besuel demonstrated how rich he was.
Thus, the makeup of the animals that Yaakov sent was significant and demonstrated his expertise.
Rav Hirsch on Vayishlach 33:10-11 States
Regarding the bracha, he points out that he has drawn absolutely no material advantage.
In addition to DanF's answer, it seems there's a message in the gift. What do you get when you add twenty rams and 200 ewes? Well if you're really hungry, 220 mutton chops! If you're patient, though, you have a breeding stock that can produce thousands.
If there's anyone who could play the victim card -- you ruined my life! -- it's Esav. Yaakov's message, in effect, was that things are what you make of them. The blessing (or lack thereof) wouldn't operate in a vacuum. It's up to you to decide what to do with it.
2Interesting. Your own idea?– msh210 ♦Dec 2, 2014 at 18:20