Jacob’s Message To Eisav
Jacob was traveling home after many years living with his untrustworthy uncle and father-in-law, Lavan.  Jacob was fearful of meeting his older brother Eisav whom he knew resented his “stealing” the oldest son’s blessings and had plotted to kill him. Jacob wasn’t too sure of Eisav’s friendly reception after all these years apart so he sent messengers ahead (according to Rashi, these were angels) to determine Eisav’s state of mind.
The angels were instructed to tell Eisav the following message from Jacob:
“I have been living with Lavan and I have been delayed until now.”
Rashi comments that the letters of the word “garti-I have been living” when rearranged spell taryag, the number 613. Rashi explains that Jacob was, in effect, saying, “I have lived with the wicked Lavan but I nevertheless observed the 613 commandments and I did not learn from his evil deeds.”
Commentators have raised the question of why it was necessary for Rashi to add the words “and I did not learn from his evil deeds?” If Jacob faithfully observed all 613 commandments wouldn’t it be obvious that he did not learn from Lavan’s evil ways? Could one’s observance be so complete and yet still allow him to learn from the wicked ways of a Lavan?
Second, why would Jacob even wish to mention his observation of the 613 commandments to Eisav? How would that influence Eisav, a man prepared to commit fratricide?
Seven Lessons From A Thief
One way of answering these two questions is to refer to a teaching of the famed Chassidic master, Reb Zushe of Anipoli.  He showed us that one could learn seven things from a thief.
At first glance, Reb Zushe’s statement is puzzling. Why would we need or want to learn positive lessons from a person who is engaged in doing the opposite of good? Aren’t there enough good people who can model positive traits for us without having to glean useful tips from a morally degraded thief?
Perhaps Reb Zushe’s remarks were intended to help us deal with the existential issue of Theodicy, or the purpose of evil.  It’s a question that has puzzled us from the very beginning of Time: Why did G‑d create evil?
The straightforward and basic answer is that G‑d wanted to challenge us so that when we resist evil’s temptations we will generate powerful positive light, leading to exponential personal growth. This is why the Talmud tells us that a Ba’al Teshuvah (one who repents and returns to the path of righteousness) is superior to a Tzadik (one who was always righteous). The Talmud declares: “The place where a Ba’al Teshuvah stands even completely righteous people cannot stand.”  While righteous people grow incrementally, Ba’al Teshuvahs [or more grammatically correct: Ba’alei Teshuvah] grow by leaps and bounds.
This explanation, however, leaves us with another question. It seems that evil’s only reason to exist is so that we can “exploit” it for our personal advancement, evil itself does not benefit from our rejection. There is nothing intrinsically good about the existence of evil.
Chassidic thought teaches us that, in truth, when a person engaged in evil behavior does Teshuvah, not only does our resistance to the allure of evil catapult us to new heights, but, moreover,  evil itself is transformed for good. It may be astonishing to contemplate but when evil is transformed it generates a power far greater than that generated by our positive actions.
Moreover, when we feel genuine remorse after engaging in evil behavior it motivates us to want to get closer to G‑d.  As Tanya explains, the Ba’al Teshuvah’s unparalleled passion for G‑d is ignited when he realizes how far he or she has strayed. Upon reflection, we see that evil actually contributed to our passion, which reframes evil as a positive force.
This is why the Talmud states that when a person does Teshuvah out of love for G‑d the evil deeds themselves become virtuous.
How Can A Tzadik Convert Evil?
This transformation can only occur fully with a Ba’al Teshuvah, one who has sinned and now uses those sins as the fuel for a burst of unprecedented passion and growth.
A Tzadik, however, cannot reach this level; it can only be reached by one who has transgressed, which is something a Tzadik would never do. And if the Tzadik decides to sin for the sole purpose of being able to repent afterwards and get the benefit of transforming evil into good, the Mishnah strongly discourages this by stating, “a person who says I will sin and then I will do Teshuvah will not be given the opportunity to do Teshuvah.” The Tzadik would therefore never countenance the idea of sinning in order to do Teshuvah.
Likewise, a Tzadik does not have the need to resist evil; the true Tzadik, as the Tanya explained, no longer possesses an evil inclination. Once the Tzadik has evolved to that point, his further growth is stunted. But the Tzadik who wants to grow and get closer to G‑d discovers that, though the world of evil exists, he cannot elevate himself or grow in spirit through it.
Reb Zushe revealed an important truth: that everybody, even the Tzadik, can learn positive traits from evil doers. When we take some of the traits of the thief, for example, and apply them to our spiritual life we can transform evil in a similar way to that of the Ba’al Teshuvah, but without having to sin. It is the closest a Tzadik can get to growing through the transformation of evil.
Jacob Was No Threat to Eisav
This, we may suggest, is the message that Jacob sent to his brother Eisav: “I lived with Lavan and observed all the 613 commandments but I did not learn anything from his evil deeds,” meaning “I did not glean positive traits from Lavan’s evil behavior. Therefore don’t be afraid that my coming to you is intended to transform you and elevate you. You are not yet ready for that, it will come at the ’end of days,’ in the Messianic era when you will be rehabilitated.”
Had Jacob elevated Lavan’s evil and transformed him for the good by learning positive traits from him it would have troubled Eisav for two reasons:
First, it would have meant that Jacob not only resisted Lavan and remained faithful to the ideals of the 613 commandments; he was also able to learn positive traits from Lavan. That would have increased Jacob’s power infinitely. Eisav would have to be terrified, knowing that Jacob’s power had increased exponentially.
Second, Jacob’s ability to have rehabilitated Lavan somewhat by learning certain positive qualities from him, would have threatened Eisav, who had no wish to change. When we learn useful things from evil people, we help elicit and actualize their latent positive energies. This causes their behavior to change. Eisav was terrified of the prospect of changing.
What Was Eisav’s Concern?
To better understand Eisav’s concern, we have to look back to what sparked his rage against Jacob. Eisav willingly sold his birthright to Jacob; that heedless act did not fuel his hatred of Jacob. Only after Jacob “appropriated” Yitzchak’s blessings through “deception,” did Eisav nurse a murderous desire to kill him.
One may suggest that Eisav believed that he and Jacob would follow different paths. In his mind, Jacob was destined to follow a completely spiritual path while Eisav followed a totally materialistic path. He was fine with that. In his mind the birthright he bargained away was a spiritual legacy and he was content for Jacob to assume that role.
This all changed, radically, when Jacob put on Eisav’s clothing and “wrested” the blessings of the firstborn from their father. Eisav understood this to mean that Jacob’s ultimate objective was to refine and rehabilitate him and his ilk by entering into his precincts, represented by the metaphor of wearing Eisav’s clothing. In this mode Jacob would discover the good in him and eventually direct him from his evil ways and even transform him into a Ba’al Teshuvah. Eisav was terrified of that change.
Seeds of Rapprochement
As we get closer to the Final Redemption, when evil will be transformed into holiness and darkness into light, the souls of those enslaved by evil react in two opposite ways.
The more potent and distilled evil feels threatened that it will cease to exist and does everything in its power to resist that transformation. This makes it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to glean anything positive from evil, for that would temper the evil and hasten its demise.
This may explain the unmitigated evil that dominated much of the world in the 20th century, such as the twined evils of Nazism and Soviet Communism. Remnants of this unmitigated and unadulterated evil have reared their ugly heads in recent weeks with senseless and shocking acts of hatred, violence and terrorism.
On the other hand, we have also witnessed complete transformations of society. Previous evildoers have changed for the good. The world has become an objectively better place. Empires seeking to dominate and subjugate the entire world have fallen away. People all over the world are performing acts of random kindness.
So, when we see the two opposite forces coming to the fore – unmitigated and incorrigible evil alongside unprecedented goodness - it is a sign of how the world is extremely close to the end of time, when the unredeemable aspects of evil will be snuffed out while its salvageable parts will be transformed into holiness.
Our Sages have foretold this scenario.  With the advent of the Messianic Age we will witness a complete rapprochement between Jacob and Eisav, the flowering of the seeds which were sown this week in our parsha’s description of Jacob and Eisav embracing.
While some opinions, cited by Rashi, maintain that Eisav’s kisses were insincere or, at best, a temporary weakness, quickly reversed, they were nevertheless the spark that led the way to the imminent rapprochement and complete transformation of Eisav into goodness.