(11) And Yaakov said, “…. I have been diminished by all the kindnesses and by all the truth that Y.u have done Your servant…: (12) Save me from the hand of my brother, from the hands of Eisav, because I’m afraid of him…: (13) And Y.u said, “I will surely do good with you and I will make your offspring….” (Breishis 32/11-13)
The Zera Shimshon asks that Yaakov’s prayer to be saved from the hands of Eisav seems to be in the wrong place. In the first of the above three possukim Yaakov Avinu expresses to Hashem that although Hashem promised to protect him he was afraid that he forfeited that promise either because he already received rewards for his rightesnous or because he sinned.
In the next posuk he prays to be saved from Eisav.
In the final posuk he reminds Hashem that H. promised to do good to him.
It would seem that the proper place to pray to be saved from Eisav is right after he mentions Hashem’s promise to be good to him and not after he expresses his fear that he has no merits.
He answers according to a concept set forth by Toras Chaim (Babba Metzia 106/A) that there are three types of miracles. For a tzaddik that has many merits there are open visible miracles that the person does nothing, Hashem takes care of it all.
For people with less merits there are two types of miracles. One type is that the person participates slightly in the event but the outcome doesn’t really have too much to do with him. For instance, when a very weak person kills an attacking lion or conquers a whole army that is much stronger than him. Obviously, after such a miracle the person who was saved recognizes that his being saved was from Hashem.
The other type of miracle for people who aren’t worthy for an open miracle is a miracle completely clothed in nature or in common daily events. For instance, the enemy gets lost on the way to attack or the animal finds another animal to quell his hunger. In the latter type of miracle the recipient doesn’t even realize that a miracle was done for him!
With this distinction in mind we can explain the flow of the posukim. Yaakov knew that Hashem promised to protect him but he was afraid that he might have sinned and therefore was entitled to only a little miracle. He thought that he at least was worthy of one clothed in nature etc. This is what was going on in his mind in posuk 11, “I have been diminished by all the kindnesses and by all the truth that Y.u have done Your servant”.
Since he saw, though, that Eisav actually came and was ready to fight he thought that maybe Hashem wants to perform a miracle for him in which he will pray and thank Hashem for it. He therefore davvened, “Save me from the hand of my brother, from the hands of Eisav, because I’m afraid of him…”
However he wasn’t sure that he sinned and lost the promise. According to the possiblity that he really was a tzaddik and was worthy for a full miracle he reminded Hashem of H.s promise, “And Y.u said, “I will surely do good with you and I will make your offsprings….”