The Dotted Kiss

This week’s post is dedicated to a dear friend and learning-partner who pointed out the dots over “and kissed him” to me… With many thanks. 

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayishlach, Eisav and Yaakov meet again for the first time in twenty years.  Fearing the wrath of his brother, Yaakov prepares for the confrontation by sending Eisav gifts, by dividing his family into two camps, and by praying for Divine Mercy. 

Would Eisav’s decades old hatred and oath to kill Yaakov come to fruition as the brothers meet again?  Would Yaakov’s family be wiped out by Eisav’s four hundred men?  Would the community, the Umah Yisraelis, that was established by Avraham Avinu be brought to an end?

The verse indicates that Eisav’s mercy was aroused when he saw Yaakov and his family.  וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ; וַיִּבְכּוּ – And Eisav ran toward him, and he embraced him, and fell upon his neck, and kissed him, and they wept (Gen.33:4).  In the masoretic text as it appears in the Torah scrolls, there are dots above each of the letters of the word וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ, and kissed him

Rashi (ibid) quotes the Sages and brings down two opinions to explain the dots.  There are those who explain that the dots indicate that Eisav did not kiss him with a full heart.  However, Rabi Shimon bar Yochai learns out from the dots an eternal lesson: “בידוע שעשו שונא ליעקב – It is well known that Eisav hates Yaakov, but in this instance his mercy was aroused and he kissed him with all his heart.”  So either he did kiss him with a full heart in this moment of mercy, or he did not kiss him with a full heart. 

It is compelling to note that it is here, on the word “ וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ – and he kissed him,” that Rashi teaches that Eisav hates (note the present tense) Yaakov.  How strange!  Of all the places in the Torah to teach us this truism, why does Rashi quote Rabi Shimon bar Yochai here on the word “and he kissed him”? 

Would it not have been more appropriate for Rashi to teach us this lesson on the verse that clearly states that Eisav harbored hatred toward Yaakov:  וַיִּשְׂטֹם עֵשָׂו, אֶת-יַעֲקֹב, עַל-הַבְּרָכָה, אֲשֶׁר בֵּרְכוֹ אָבִיו; וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו בְּלִבּוֹ, יִקְרְבוּ יְמֵי אֵבֶל אָבִי, וְאַהַרְגָה, אֶת-יַעֲקֹב אָחִי – And Eisav harbored hatred toward Yaakov because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Eisav said to himself, The days of mourning for my father will draw near, then I will kill my brother Yaakov (Gen.27:41).  So Rashi should have told us on this verse that it is well known that Eisav hates Yaakov!

Why do we learn this lesson when Eisav kisses Yaakov; for a kiss usually denotes an act of love, warmth, compassion and mercy?

Perhaps the Torah is teaching us an important, essential-to-our-survival and eternal lesson.  When the enemy comes to kill us openly, “And Eisav harbored hatred toward Yaakov,” we do not need anyone to tell us that he hates us!  In those moments, we all understand the enemy’s evil intentions. 

Dvir Litman, whose sister Sarah-Tehiya married Ariel Bigel Thursday night (11.26.15), spoke of his mixed emotions at the wedding.

“We are feeling our pain, but at the same time we must be happy in the joy of Sarah-Tehiya. Our pain is big, and on the same evening in which I will say kaddish for my father in the evening prayer, I will also sing ‘Boi kallah‘ (‘come forward, O bride’) for my sister.  We are showing that no one can defeat the Nation of Israel and that we will remain strong no matter what happens to us,” he explained.  “We would have been happy to have a happy wedding, a wedding without anything to bother us, but G-d wanted it differently, but we do not break.  We will rejoice today, despite the sorrow and pain, without father and without Netanel, and they will look at us from above and take part from there.”

When he hates us and vows to kill us, we are surely well aware of the enemy who rises up against us. 

However!  When the enemy comes with a kiss, with a kind word, with a display of compassionate mercy, then we are reminded that we must beware, “וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ – and he kissed him.”  Do not forget, says Rashi, that both the sword, as well as the kiss, of the enemy are poisonous. 

May Hashem help us to defeat all of our enemies, whether they come against us with a sword or a kiss.  For it is well known, says Rabi Shimon bar Yochai, that Eisav hates Yaakov; regardless of his external display.    

Hadar Buchris HY”D, discussed the deteriorating security situation with friends just ten days before she was murdered (in a brutal stabbing attack which took place on 11.22.15).

“Listen, I get it: we need Messiah now!!!,” she wrote to friends in an internal WhatsApp group.

A friend replied: “We are glad you have understood. Do you have an idea as to how to hasten his arrival? And how to figure out who he is?”

In reply, Hadar wrote: “… I just think that he has to arrive! Because the Nation of Israel cannot suffer any more! It simply can’t.”

May we merit to see Hadar’s words come to fruition immediately and in our days, amen v’amen.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,



  • Deborah Friedman
    Posted at 08:41h, 27 November

    Thank you for your inspiring thoughts. It’s wonderful to hear from you down here. Have a good Shabbos.

  • Marla
    Posted at 12:41h, 27 November

    So beautifully written! Thank you for your inspiring words, friend and learning partner. Shabbat shalom!!

  • Rochy Fried
    Posted at 18:18h, 28 November

    I think there is even a more blatant message here. Our biggest enemy today, the biggest threat to Yiddishkeit, is the rate of assimilation to which we lose so many Yiddishe neshamos through intermarriage. And if the non-Jew is a woman, the children are not Jewish l’chatchilah. So when we take note of the warning in “the kiss,” I think it is a warning about the danger in that physically intimate act with a non-Jew man or woman, which can lead to intermarriage R”L.