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God-Wrestling and Faith...

Updated: Dec 22, 2022


Torah Portion: Parashat Vayishlach (“and he sent”)

Shabbat: Dec. 10, 2002 / Kislev 16, 5783

Torah: Gen. 32:3-36:43

Prophets: Obadiah 1:1-21

New Covenant: Heb. 11:11-20 ; Matt. 26:36-46


The Shema

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”. Deut. 6:4-5


Our Torah portion this week contains the story of how Jacob "wrestled" with the Angel of the LORD just before he encountered his estranged brother Esau. During the "grappling" session (recall the meaning of Jacob's name), the Angel injured Jacob's thigh, but Jacob refused to release his hold until he received the blessing (הַבְּרָכָה). The LORD then asked him, "What is your name (מַה־שְּׁמֶךָ)?" And he said, "Jacob" (i.e., Ya'akov:יַעֲקב). The Angel then replied, "Your name shall no longer be Ya'akov ("heel holder" [of Esau]) but Yisrael ("contender with God"), for as a prince (sar, שַׂר) you have contended (i.e., sarita:שָׂרִיתָ) with God and with men and have prevailed" (Gen. 32:28).

Jacob's story teaches that before we can return from our place of exile, we have to face our fears and wrestle over who we really are with God. Each of us must be renamed from Jacob to Israel, from being a manipulator to one who surrenders to God's power and blessing. Just as Jacob finally prevailed with God when the power of his faith overcame the pain of his past, so we can escape from our own exile - the prison of our past - by proclaiming from the heart: "I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered" (Gen. 32:30).


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