Parshat Vayishlach begins with Eisav planning to confront his brother Yaakov. Eisav’s pending arrival stirs tremendous fear in Yaakov, which he expresses in 22:8. The Pasuk reads, “Vayira Yaakov Me’od Vayeitzer Lo,” “And Yaakov became very frightened, and it distressed him.” Rashi comments on this Pausk that the double Lashon of Vayira and Vayeitzer indicates two different considerations: Vayira show that Yaakov was concerned for his own life, while Vayeitzer Lo means that he was fearful for the lives of others.
Rav Avraham Twerski explains Yaakov’s great fear in a different fashion. Hashem had promised Yaakov protection at all times. Nevertheless, Yaakov was scared stiff and intimidated before Eisav. Rav Twerski writes that the reason for this great fear was Eisav’s merits. Yaakov feared that Eiasav’s Mitzvot would be forceful enough to nullify Hashem’s covenant with Yaakov. On the surface, this statement is perplexing and seems to be contradictory to previous Parshiyot. Eisav was a Rasha of the first degree, while Yaakov was a Tzadik Gamur. In fact, according to the Midrash, Eisav committed acts which were more appalling and flagrant then all other Aveirot. Thus, it seems nonsensical that Yaakov would be worried about Eisav’s Mitzvot negating a covenant between him and Hashem.
Of course, Rav Twerski, well aware of this issue, further clarifies his explanation. Yaakov was primarily fearful of two of Eisav’s Mitzvot: living in Eretz Yisrael and fulfilling the Mitzvah of Kibud Av to Yitzchak, both of which Yaakov had not done in over twenty years. He had not fulfilled these Mitzvot to the degree Eisav had. Therefore, although Eisav was a Rasha Gamur in comparison to Yaakov, the mere fact that he fulfilled these two Mitzvot was reason enough for Yaakov’s tremendous fear.
We see a similar type of fear expressed by Moshe Rabeinu. When Moshe went to war with Og Melech HaBashan, he was absolutely petrified. Although Moshe had a level of prophecy superior to that of any man, he was afraid of a non-Jewish king. The Midrash writes that Og was the messenger who informed Avraham of the passing of his brother-in law, Lot. Moshe was fearful that the merit of this one act would be enough for Og to succeed in battle against Moshe.
We can learn a most applicable and important lesson from these two instances. Tanach figures such as Moshe and Yaakov were distraught about an encounter with a Rasha who performed one or two righteous acts. We must acknowledge the potential ramifications of performing or not performing a single Mitzvah, and recognize that any Mitzvah can tip the scales in our favor.