The Torah describes the dramatic encounter between the two brothers Yaacov and Aisav after decades of separation. Aisav had major issues with Yaacov from the time he received the patriarchal blessing from their father Yitzchok. Aisav’s hatred was so intense that he wished to kill Yaacov.
In preparation for this meeting, Yaacov prepared a series of lavish gifts to appease Aisav. He also readied for war and prayed. The gifts worked, and the Torah describes that Aisav was overwhelmed by them and Aisav ran towards Yaacov and kissed him on the neck. Then they both cried. Notice, that only Aisav kissed Yaacov.
We know that in the Sefer Torah there are no vowels under the letters. We know how to pronounce the words through our Mesorah – oral tradition. While there are no vowels under the letters, in a few places in the Torah, there are dots on top of certain letters and words which have implications.
On top of the word Vayeeshakahu – and he kissed him – there are six dots over the six letters of the word. Rashi explains that there are two ways our Sages understand this. One, is that the dots come to tell us that Aisav did not kiss Yaacov wholeheartedly. But Reb Shimon Bar Yochai explains that the Halacha is that Aisav always hates Yaacov, however, here the dots teach us that at this time he kissed Yaacov with a full heart.
Why is it that only Aisav kissed Yaacov?
Before we explain this we must understand the way the Shem Mishmuel explains the sublime meaning of a kiss. King Solomon in the opening to the Book of Song of Songs describes G-d communicating His innermost wisdom through the Torah to us as – “Kiss us with the kisses of Your mouth.”
Thus, we understand that a kiss implies the transfer of essential spirituality to someone.
Where do we see this concept? In the Book of Ruth, it relates that Elimelech, his wife Na’ami and their two sons left Israel to settle in the plains of Moav.
Their two sons married Moavite women, Ruth and Orpah. After Elimelech and his two sons died, Na’ami decided to return to Israel. The verses describe that Na’ami kissed her two daughters-in-law. Orpah retuned the kiss and headed back to her idolatrous home while Ruth held on to Na’ami.
The Talmud relates that both their gestures had future impact. Generations later, King David, a descendant of Ruth, killed Goliath a descendant of Orpah. Prompting our Sages to remark; “Let the descendant of the one who kissed (Orpa), fall to the one who held on (Ruth).”
Thus, we see there is more to it than a mere kiss. Shem Mishmuel explains. When Na’ami was heading back to Israel, she kissed both her daughters-in-law. The kiss was to imbue a spiritual spirit into them to perhaps awaken a feeling within them to convert sincerely and return to Israel with her.
Orpah returned the kiss, as if to say I’m giving back the spirituality you wished to imbue me with. While Ruth accepted the kiss, holding on to Na’ami and returning to Israel. She eventually married Boaz with her great grandson being David, the King of Israel.
Let’s return back to the story of Aisav and Yaacov. As Aisav approached Yaacov, the Torah describes that Yaacov bowed several times to Aisav in order to appease him. Yaacov’s bows served to stir something spiritual within Aisav. Perhaps through this he would straighten himself out. However, our Sages tell us that when Aisav greeted Yaacov, he really wanted to bite him on the neck, but Yaacov’s neck turned hard like marble. At that point Aisav kissed Yaacov and through his kiss he symbolically (like Orpah) returned the spiritual energy he received from Yaacov. This is why Yaacov did not return a kiss to Aisav, rather they both cried.
Alshich explains that Aisav cried because he wasn’t able to rule over Yaacov, and Yaacov cried because he didn’t believe that he, or his descendants were saved from Aisav’s wrath.
We see today that blatant anti-semitism is on the rise. However, it should come as no surprise to us; after all, we raise our cups of wine during the Passover Seder and recite, “In each generation they rise up against us – and Hakodosh Boruch Hu – The Holy and Blessed, saves us from their hands!”
The Torah tell us that before Yitzchok gave his son Yaacov the patriarchal blessings he kissed him. That loving and spiritual kiss infused him and it is retained and cherished by each one of his descendants, forever!