There was a big question mark back when my 20th High School Reunion rolled around. Would I go or wouldn’t I? I hadn’t gone to any of my previous reunions–mainly because I was usually travelling or it took place on Shabbat, but also because I didn’t really enjoy high school that much. I felt like I didn’t share a lot in common with most of the other students; I couldn’t get away to college fast enough.
When the time came, I did decide to attend. I went in with the following rule: “if you didn’t talk to me in high school, I’m not talking to you tonight.” I was pretty defensive about it all, but as soon as I walked through the door, it was great to see old friends. Past concerns melted away and they were replaced with warm memories and lots of laughs.
That was many years ago (when I lived in Toledo) and, while I have reconnected with a few on Facebook, most of them have once again drifted off.
That experience gives perhaps 1% of the drama and anxiety surrounding the 20-year reunion of Jacob and Esau in our weekly Torah portion, Vayishlach. The last time I saw many of my classmates we were getting our diplomas; the last time the brothers saw each other one had stolen a blessing and the other was threatening to kill! Despite Jacob’s trepidation and planning, the reunion went smoothly. In one of the most touching scenes in the Torah they come together, hug and weep. Overall, it is a fairly brief reunion and the two head their separate ways; they do come together again to bury their father, Isaac, when the time comes.
The story of these twins and memories of my high school reunion remind us all that people dear and not-so-dear come in and out of our lives at different times. It is rare that friendships last throughout the various stages of our lives; when it comes to friends, usually there are only a few to whom we hold on over the decades. Family, however, is another matter. Ultimately, it is sad that Jacob and Esau were never really able to patch things up, and our tradition tells us that we still suffer the consequences of that rift.
Not every relationship can be saved. Not every relationship deserves to be saved. Perhaps the lesson is to make the most out of the time we have with those we love; we never really know just how long they will be a part of our lives.Shabbat Shalom!