How Should We Prepare For War? by Eli Reichner


In this week’s Parashah, Parshat VaYislach, Yaakov meets his brother, Eisav, after more than twenty years of detachment. Eisav at this point is traveling with four hundred people to meet Yaakov, which makes Yaakov fear that Eisav may want to destroy him and his family. Therefore, Yaakov makes many preparations for the encounter with Eisav. These preparations are exemplary, teaching us how we should prepare for war.

Yaakov prepares for the encounter with Eisav with the following behaviors: he Davens to Hashem for protection from whatever Eisav might try to do to harm him; next, he divides his camp into two parts with the intention that if Eisav attacks, one group would still have time to escape the wrath of Eisav’s forces; finally, Yaakov bribes Eisav to treat him kindly, by sending him a plethora of money and animals.

These preparations are relevant for us today. When Israel deals with the other countries, she should follow the preparations that Yaakov makes to meet with Eisav: prayer, military preparation, and attempting to avert war. Israel should first Daven to Hashem to help the country defend itself against the potential enemies; then, it should prepare to face its enemies militarily, by training a strong army with many bases and employing wise tactics; finally, in an effort to avoid war, Israel should try to mollify its enemies with money (editor’s note: American foreign aid policy seems to heed this advice).

This last point, bribery of enemies, is quite intriguing when considering the contemporary issue of ceding Israeli land for peace. Yaakov bribes Eisav with money and animals, but does not bribe him with any amount of land in Eretz Yisrael. As such, we can see that while it is advisable to attempt to bribe enemy nations with money as well as with other diplomatic means, under no circumstances should we give away our hard-earned land in attempt to achieve peace. We should not give up the fundamental goal of maintaining Eretz Yisrael to seek peace, just as Yaakov is never willing sacrifice settlement in Israel for harmony.

Yaakov’s preparations for his meeting with Eisav are very relevant in teaching Bnei Yisrael how to act in the face of enemies’ approaching for war. We should always be ready to Daven and prepare for war in such cases; however, while we strive for peace to forestall conflict, we should never do so at the expense of our Holy Land, Eretz Yisrael (editor’s note: the issue of the Halachic permissibility of exchanging Israeli land for peace was addressed in an essay published last May in Kol Torah, available at

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