Blog Vayishlach 14 Kislev 5778 בלוג וַיִּשְׁלַח, י”ד כסלו תשע”ז
In this portion, Jacob is returning home and he will be facing his worst fears. Do you have any fears in your life? He was desperate and didn’t know how to face the fears which constantly plagued him – the fear over claiming the birth-right, deceiving his father, running from Esau and later from Lavan. What sustained him during these times? Jacob had a personal relationship with the Creator who appeared to him in dreams. Jacob prepared himself to face his brother first with gifts to pacify him, then he prayed to the Creator begging for his help and finally he prepared for war. He knew that he didn’t stand a chance against his brother. As Jacob spent the night alone waiting for him, he had either a dream or a vision; whatever it was, it was very real to the point of leaving him with a limp. He had fought all night with a “man” who at the end asked him his name. When he told him Jacob, the man then changed his name to Israel. Why did he ask him – “what is your name?” You see Jacob had lied to his father Isaac who had asked him three times whether he was really Esau. He said “I am Esau”. Now Jacob would have to reckon with himself. By now admitting that he was Jacob he could not deceive his way into obtaining the birthright. This could only be given to him by the Creator. Now he would be able to confront his brother. He would not do this by going to war with Esau but instead he would bow seven times, a beautiful number in Gematria. He was really saying, “Forgive me, forgive me…” seven times; I know that I did wrong. He would pay his debt with the gift of animals. Esau had come to Jacob with 400 men, perhaps to destroy him, but when he saw Jacob’s change of heart, Esau ran to him and hugged him, weeping and reconciling with Jacob. Jacob had confronted his worst demons and was now free to start again. He could receive the Creator’s blessings without that shadow of deceit hanging over his head. He would now be called Israel who had struggled with both divine beings and men and had overcome. Even though Jacob was free of his past, it didn’t mean that he was now perfect. We will see how he would continue with his imperfections. There are no magic incantations that make us perfect. We will struggle with our humanity until the day that we die.
It is so important for us to identify with Jacob. Why did he find himself in this situation? Did he ever acknowledge that he had done anything wrong? It is not written anywhere but throughout the narratives we will see that he would pay for everything he had done, little by little. It is a process called midah keneged midah – measure for measure. In Jacob’s way of thinking, he always believed that he was doing what he needed to in order to be the next leader after Abraham and his father Isaac. He would fulfill his calling by the Creator and he knew in his heart that Esau was not capable of that role. Most of our sages speak very poorly of Esau in contrast with Jacob yet the Torah does not paint such a picture of him. It is, however Esau’s descendants who take a turn for the worse. If we honestly believe that we are doing something good and important, would we do it at any cost? Jacob did just that. We must not, however live by the motto “the end justifies the means.” Jacob needed to turn from being a liar to becoming straight. With whom was he fighting… with a man or with Esau as he did in the womb or with Esau’s guardian angel, Samael or was he really fighting with himself? He was afraid that his brother would destroy him and he needed to get past his fears. He needed to accept the reality that if he reached this point, the Creator would take care of him. He would finally have to accept that the outcome belonged to the Almighty. He would fight against his own nature admitting that he had done wrong and would have to be responsible and make it right. A true relationship with the Creator is through teshuva which means “to return” to the Creator first by accepting and acknowledging what we have done. This is the first step in a true relationship. Then to make restitution and finally to give to God what we cannot do. This is the key.
Can you identify with Jacob? Have you confronted your own demons or are they still haunting you? Are you afraid to continue because you have had so many failures? There are no successful people who have written in their biographies that they succeeded the first time round. Every one of them failed over and over again but they kept on until they finally made it. It is of course better to learn from the mistakes of others. We can learn from each other and it is wise to seek counsel. Jacob’s twelve sons suffered from the many mistakes that he made. He went back and forth between being Jacob and Israel and it is important to see that although Jacob died, Israel still lives.
We are all on our personal journeys some are at the beginning, some at the end. Some have made many mistakes. There is a difference between those who have made mistakes and do something about them and others who do nothing. I know both. It is how we respond to a situation that decides success or failure. What is your greatest fear? How are you facing it? As a counselor, I teach confrontation as the best way of dealing with issues. If you don’t deal with them but keeping sweeping them under the rug, eventually you will trip over the huge lump you have created. You need to do something about it or you will be destroyed.
Jacob needed to deal with his actions against his brother and his father before he could continue his life back home. He could no longer hide or flee. Confrontation does not mean to fight; rather it means to clarify, to bring transparency to the equation. Our Rabbi Yeshua told us to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul and might and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We must love ourselves before we can love our neighbor. It means that we accept ourselves for who we are. Most people spend their lives imagining that they are like someone else. In the end they are no-one. There are people who want to commit suicide. This is the coward’s way out. It takes more courage to live than to die. Jacob’s life would be filled with problems – how Shimon and Levi dealt with Dinah’s’ rape, how he spoiled Joseph in front his brothers, the case of Reuben etc. Life is tough but learning to live in the Presence of our Creator shows us that we are not alone. That is our hope. Our Messiah Yeshua’s role was to bring us back to Torah and to teach us that if we follow the Torah we would be in the Kingdom of the Creator, in His Presence. No religion will ever make us better, only the relationship with the Borei Olam. Even in Jacob’s worse situation he had a relationship with the Creator. He speaks to you and I and if He is with us, who can be against us?