Best Presents for Enemies

Vayishlach

Arguments, feuds and quarrels often evolve from minor mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Within a ‎short time they can take on a life of their own, spiraling out of control, and by the time one side wants to make peace, an all out war has ‎been engaged. How does one who wants to resolve the quarrel begin to break the ‎proverbial ice? How can you bring the opposing group to negotiate, compromise and eventually reconcile? ‎

An effective game-changer in resolving disputes is to begin by giving a gift to the rival party. Everyone likes ‎to receive gifts. To have an appreciated outcome it doesn’t have to be expensive (not that a mere pittance ‎will suffice) but even less costly bestowments can help achieve the desired result. ‎

How does this work? ‎

The gift is not payment in lieu of the ill will and strife that has been generated by the ongoing dispute. One ‎is not trying to pay off the other party for accrued agonizing emotional pain. Nor is it explained by the ‎cliché “it is the thought that counts”, this truism, that the spirit of generosity behind the purchase goes ‎further than the value of the offering, does not fully explain the mechanics underlying this wondrous ‎technique. ‎

Latent Patronization

The laws of human nature dictate that one who receives a gift is beholden to the giver. This spirit is a ‎potent undercurrent which accompanies the bestowal, forging it into an intoxicating apparatus. With the ‎acknowledgement of the largesse, a debt of gratitude is created that cannot be divorced from the gift. The ‎one who has accepted the gift has unwittingly subjugated his self to the donor. ‎

It is for this reason Mishlei commends the one who refuses to receive gifts: “he who hates gifts will live” ‎‎(15:27). The message of this statement is deep, the person who despises aid will be “independent” he will ‎truly exist.‎

This is why conferring a present has the potential to begin the healing process. The recipient is ‎subconsciously grateful for the gift and by default more receptive to the giver. The donee will now be ‎prepared to listen to what the donor has to say. This state of receptiveness does not only open the ‎channels of communication but it may further assist in reconciliation and ultimately in complete reunion.‎‏ ‏‎ ‎

The effectiveness and potency of bribes is similarly explained. The bribe can be of minimal value yet ‎despite its meagerness it has potential to sway the decision of the most wise. Even when the judge is ‎conscious of the corrupt backhander and attempts to ignore the enticement and honestly search for the ‎truth, his or her unbiased position has been compromised. Once they are in receipt of the bribe they can no ‎longer be objective since they are beholden to the briber. ‎

David‏ ‏Lieberman in his book Make Peace With Anyone (p 104) provides an emergency primer for a peace seeker ‎who expects to be met with intense resistance. He advises sending a gift, “The gift creates an unconscious ‎obligation where the other person feels the ‘the least they can do’ is to listen to what you have to say”. ‎

Esav mistakenly believed that Yaakov had usurped his deserving blessings from their father Yitzchok. These ‎were blessings that promised untold wealth, success and prosperity in this world. Esav planned to avenge ‎his grievance by slaying his brother. Yaakov, in preparing to meet his warring brother readied himself for ‎three things: gift, prayer and battle. Under the circumstances, prayer and battle are readily ‎understandable, but how was he going to assuage the temper of this sworn enemy with a gift? How will a ‎few hundred animals function as recompense for stealing the incalculable? ‎

This was not an attempt at reparations, there was no way that Yaakov could placate his brother by paying ‎him the value of Esav’s loss. Yaakov, via the gift, was attempting to achieve a different goal, he was ‎striving to dominate Esav and bring him under his control in much the same way as a bribe operates. The ‎gift would create feelings of acknowledgement and gratitude in Esav towards this gracious patron, and the ‎feelings of subjugation which would accompany his receipt would override any thought of killing his ‎benefactor. ‎

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