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Struggle, Reconciliation and Hope

Parshat Vayishlach

Genesis 32:4 -36:43

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, our patriarch Jacob is finally returning to the land of his father Isaac, the land of Canaan after a long sojourn in the land of his mother’s family.  He left for his Uncle Laban’s house as an individual but he is returning to the land of his father with wives and children, flocks of sheep and servants.  Jacob has become a thriving and wealthy man.  God promised to be with Jacob and clearly God has blessed the work of his hands.


While in his uncle’s employ Jacob learned so many valuable lessons. Some of the lessons he learned were about shepherding and others about the cost of deception. But our patriarch Jacob is still growing spiritually.  Though he has inherited the birthright and promise from both his father and God Jacob still has a huge spiritual hurdle before him. If he is truly to settle in the land of his father and grandfather, the Holy Land then he must spiritually find a way to encounter his brother Esau once again.
Esau is Jacob’s twin.  It was from Esau that Jacob “stole” the blessing and birthright of their father.  For Esau was the eldest.  Jacob and Esau struggled with each other even before they were born the Torah tells us.


But as adults they have been separated by years and many miles.  As Jacob and his family entourage make their way back Jacob knows he has to encounter his brother.  By the river Jabok, on the eve of meeting up with his brother again, Jacob is struggling.  Fearing a battle with his brother and fearing retribution from his brother he sends his family on ahead across the river while he spends the night by its banks. And there he has a vivid encounter in his nightly dream.  Jacob wrestles with an angel of God.  Of course Jacob is used to struggle. He and Esau struggled in their mother’s womb.  But when one wrestles with angels it is an unusual occurrence Jacob does prevail in this struggle with the angel called Peniel (the face of God).   But in the process is wounded in the leg.  He will always walk differently and that is precisely the spiritual point.  He is different and to encounter his brother, reconcile with him and accept forgiveness you must walk a different path.


Jacob with that wounding becomes Israel.  Jacob becomes a nation in his woundedness.  Jacob can only accept reconciliation when he isn’t acquiring or expanding his ego but there is a contraction and he makes room in his spirit and being for his brother’s embrace again.


This week in honor of Jacob’s struggle with the angel and in emulation of Jacob and Esau reach out to a family member with whom you have been estranged or had difficulty and forgive and embrace and cross the River that flows letting the waters of purity and compassion wash you. For like Jacob you too can struggle and prevail