In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about Jacob leaving Laban’s house with his family and returning to Israel. We learn that Jacob is afraid that his brother Esau might seek revenge and harm him for taking the first born blessings from Isaac, so he sends messengers to his brother, Esau to appease him. However, the messengers come back and tell him that “Esau is heading toward you with four hundred men in order to take revenge”. When Jacob hears this, he plans a three part strategy, he prepares a gift to try to appease Esau, he prays and he prepares for war if it becomes necessary.
When Esau reaches Jacob, Jacob bows down to him seven times and refers to himself as Esau’s servant and calls Esau his lord, numerous times.
Jacob’s extreme servility seems surprising especially since Esau was unrighteous and G-d had told Rivkah that “The older one will serve the younger” and in Isaac’s blessing to Jacob, he specifically stated “you shall be a lord over your brother.” Indeed the sages tell us that the Torah is teaching us how important peace is and that it is even permissible to flatter the wicked for the sake of peace.
In the mystical commentaries, a deeper reason is given for Jacob’s servility. They explain that although Esau was wicked, his spiritual source was loftier than Jacob. When Jacob met Esau, he was trying to affect him positively and draw down spirituality from his brother’s spiritual origin. Thus Jacob’s bowing down before Esau and calling him his lord was primarily directed at Esau’s lofty source. (Based on the teaching of the Chassidic Masters.)