Blog Vayishlach Kislev 16 5779 בלוג וַיִּשְׁלַח, ט”ז כסלו תשע”ט
“We do our best, and to Him, we leave the rest!”
In the last three parashot we have been examining Jacob, the last of our three forefathers. According to our sages, Abraham had a merciful heart, Isaac had a servant heart always desiring justice, and Yaakov or Jacob was the keeper of the Torah. In this portion, Vayishlach he wrestled with a man who had special qualities, might even have been a divine being – the angel Samael – סמאל (Sam – סם – means “poison” and El – אל – means “God”). This gives a picture of Jacob who would struggle his entire life. At his birth, he fought for first position holding onto the heel of his brother Esav. He struggled with his identity while having an instinctive understanding of his role but at the same time battling with a personality that had an aspect of deception. On the other hand, Esav, in spite of his reputation developed later by the prophets and psalms, was never depicted in Torah as being evil. Torah gives us the idea that he was care free or free spirited, irresponsible and self-centered.
What can we glean from this story of Jacob and Esav to be applied to our lives today?
Jacob represents Israel and the Torah, while Esav represents the world without the Torah. This struggle is universal. Jacob’s fight with the man depicts his return to reality, having to confront past issues which he had never dealt with. This is very important in our lives…we all need to reconcile with our past. It is far easier to sweep past incidents under the rug until one day the dust rises up so much that it chokes us. At that point, we are forced to question our purpose and even struggle with our own existence. We might prefer to live like Esav who exemplifies living life however we please since today is all there is. In contrast, the Torah teaches us to live life responsibly and to care about others.
Jacob was not innocent; he took advantage of Esav’s “starving to death” to usurp his birthright. Even though Jacob questioned his mother Rivkah who advised him to deceive his father, he still went ahead and did it. He took the blessing from Isaac that corresponded to Esav once again. He could have repaired the damage then and there by restoring both the birthright and the blessing, but first Jacob would have to experience payback, time and again for his deceitful behavior to his father. He was deceived by his father-in-law, Lavan who gave him Leah instead of his beloved Rachel on their wedding night; later by Rachel herself when she concealed the idols. Jacob was deceived by his sons, Levi and Shimon in the story of Prince Hamor who took and “defiled” their sister Dinah. Again, when his sons lied about his beloved Joseph having died and also when Joseph did nothing to look for him during those many years in Egypt. Jacob would finally have the opportunity to make things right at his last encounter with his brother Esav and then Jacob could restart his new life as Israel.
How many of us are holding something from our past that does not allow us to progress? Most emotional and mental problems begin in our childhood due to either poor parental guidance or their non-participation in our upbringing. The remedy lies in our own hands; we need to confess our past and learn to forgive those who have wronged us. As long as we hold back this forgiveness, we remain hostage and lose the control of our lives. Only when we forgive, are we set free. Remember one thing: only our Creator has the right to judge them.
What can we learn from this? Remaining truly faithful to God and His Torah doesn’t mean that we won’t struggle however we will always be on the right path. Jacob would struggle until he finally let go after his fight with the “man”. Has anyone ever told you, “enough is enough, let it go or you will destroy yourself!” When Jacob prevailed in his struggle with God, he became strong demonstrating that there are times we need to fight for our lives.
Rivkah knew in her heart that Jacob would be best one to lead their people; we do not know whether or not she told Isaac, who obviously preferred Esav since he was a strong hunter, a true macho man. Today Israel maintains both aspects of Jacob and Esav; one seeking peace while at the same time knowing that they have to fight for their very survival. It is not always about good combating evil rather about knowing when to apply restraint and when to have a show of strength.
Have you dealt with issues that are holding you back in your life? Until we are truly honest with ourselves, we can never be honest with others; this holds true with love and loyalty.
Jacob prepared himself for battle at the end, but he finally got to make things right with his brother. He sought the truth and Esav responded with true tears. Jacob did everything he could to minimize his losses and although he was filled of fear he still proceeded. Jacob had constantly lived in fear. How many of us live our lives in fear and hold ourselves back in so many areas? It is time to release our phobias and deal with our past. Jacob finally faced his worst fear – his brother Esav and the results were astounding. Esav made up with him and then picked up all his wealth, his family and his people and left the Promised Land to Jacob – to Israel.
The moral of this story is “We do our best, and to Him, we leave the rest!”