Bereshit 32:8:

"וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ וַיַּחַץ אֶת־הָעָם אֲשֶׁר־אִתּוֹ וְאֶת־הַצֹּאן וְאֶת־הַבָּקָר וְהַגְּמַלִּים לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת׃"

"Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps..."

First of all, I noticed that in Hebrew it reads: vayetzer lo (ויצר לו), and I wondered, although it’s probably related to Hetzer הצר (to narrow or take in), if this distressed feeling, does his anxiety come from his Yetzer Hara?

Secondly, what exactly was this fear/anxiety of Ya’akov, hence from where did it come? I.e. What kind of fear/anxiety are we talking about? And how was it solved by wrestling the adversary and meeting Esav?

  1. No, ויצר comes from צרה like in וְעֵת צָרָה הִיא לְיַעֲקֹב וּמִמֶּנָּה יִוָּשֵׁעַ (Yes 30,7). This comes from the root צרר like צורר - enemy, not יצר like ייצר - creation. One can say "צר לי" (I'm sorry) or in future "יצר לי" (I'll be sorry).
    Therefore "ויצר לו" with וו ההיפוך should be translated as the past tense "צר לו".

  2. When facing a big trouble, a person remembers one's merits and misdeeds in the hope those will help him to cope with the situation. When Yaakov heard that his brother comes to fight him, he:

    • Was afraid [he might lose as] he didn't have the merit of the 21 years (living with Lavan) of honoring his parents [and this "sin" could lead to losing to Eisov] (Targum Yonoson) ("וּדְחִיל יַעֲקב לַחֲדָא עַל דְלָא עָסַק עֶשְרִין שְׁנִין בִּיקָרָא דְאָבוֹי")

    • Was afraid to be killed or sorry to kill others (esp his brother) - Rashi

    • Trusted G-d and counted on Him that he'll overcome it, but didn't want to show himself as carefree and calm (others).

There are also many other interpretations, please see the link.


Daas Zekeinim -- Esav had said "I'll kill my brother once our father is dead." If Esav is coming at Yaakov now with an army, that means their father has most likely died; so Yaakov is afraid of Esav's attack, and distressed by the [erroneous] inference that his father has died.

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