14 Kislev 5778 – Vayishlach

I look forward to welcoming all of our new members and new families for a special welcome kiddush after the service this Shabbat day. It’s so wonderful being part of a growing community. From strength to strength!

I also wish a mazal tov to all of our birthday kids from the past three months, who will be celebrating with us in Shule on Friday night.

It’s a fascinating episode. 22 years earlier Yaakov had left home, fearing that his brother Esav, whose blessing he had taken, would kill him. Now he is returning, when suddenly he hears that Esav is on his way to intercept him with a force of 400 men. Yaakov, says the Torah, was “very afraid and distressed.” It is then that the famous scene occurs: “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”

This mysterious man tries to kill Yaakov. Then, “when he sees that he cannot defeat him,” he maims Yaakov, causing him to limp. And yet at the end of a long, struggling night, Yaakov says to the stranger: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” His adversary blesses him.

What a strange episode! The mysterious man was attempting to kill Yaakov. Unable to achieve that, he goes for “second best:” he wounds him. Why would Yaakov ask him for a blessing? Is this how you bid farewell to a thug who attempted to destroy you?

Similar to my explanation last week, I believe that within these words contains an incredible lesson for every person, in every age. You see, there are two ways that we can face the challenges of life. We can look at them and get sucked into a spiral of stress and depression, or we can choose to rise above them and use them as opportunities for self-reflection, evaluation and improvement. Yaakov is teaching us that we must always challenge ourselves take look at every challenging situation and find the good; the “blessing”. Even after the darkest moments in our lives when we think that all is but gone and lost, we have the ability to dig deep and reclaim our inner strength, goodness and blessing. Let us not let the “mysterious” moments of our lives control us, but let us grow from them and because of them. 

Wishing you all a hearty Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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