When Yaakob heard that Esau was marching toward him with an army of 400 men, he was very afraid.
Our Sages in the Midrash compare Yaakob’s fear of confrontation with Esau to that of the Jews’ fear of Haman many generations later. However, whereas they praise Yaakob and learn educational instruction from his conduct, the Jews distress under Haman are criticized as having “forgotten their creator”. Why the distinction?
These two fears are distinguishable from each other by the fact that Yaakob’s fear led to positive action and hope while the Jews under Haman came to despair. The first is commendable because it leads to constructive action whereas the latter is destructive in that it leads to resignation and paralysis. Indeed, if not for the heroic action of one man, Mordechai, the Jews were in danger of annihilation.
One of the greatest catastrophes in Jewish history was when the spies, sent by Moshe, returned with their evil report. The despair of the Jews who lost faith in their future resulted in their own demise.
Both individually and as a people, while circumstances may warrant fear, we should learn from Yaakob to never abandon hope and to take whatever steps possible to have faith in G-d and the future.