Vayishlach delves into the evolution of Jewish identity, tracing Jacob's transformative journey towards becoming Israel. Departing from the previous portion, where Jacob goes into exile, this narrative centers on his return and the intricate process of identity transition. The text emphasizes the importance of grappling with political challenges as a prerequisite for embodying the identity of 'Israel,' who contends with God and men.
A crucial moment unfolds in Jacob's encounter with Esau, where fear takes a central role. Rashi's commentary sheds light on the dual nature of Jacob's fear—fearing potential harm to himself and the prospect of causing damage to others. This nuanced fear reflects the lingering influence of an exile's moral code, which hinders the ability to confront and defeat the enemy.
While Jacob still grapples with a real enemy in the incident of Shechem, his sons understand the necessary course of action for existence in the Land of Israel. The narrative concludes with Jacob returning to Bethel, having acquired the conviction required by the Jews of the Land of Israel—a level exemplified by one who knows how to fight to defend themselves and their Land.