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Weekly Davar - Vayishlach: Insisting that life blesses us

The Weekly Davar
In memory of Barry Taylor Z"L

(Genesis 32:4 – 36:43)

29th November 2012
15th Kislev, 5773

GOOD AFTERNOON!! I returned from the US yesterday and we were there for ‘Black Friday’. I know it will come as a surprise to Americans reading this, but we Europeans do not actually know what Black Friday is! Even though the US baseball Championship, open only to US teams, is called the ‘World Series’, life still does exist beyond the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

At any rate, Black Friday is a sale a month before Christmas and I know there are some retailers out there so I’m asking if you can make sense of it for me. I understand here in the UK we have sales right after Christmas. Demand has gone right down and there is surplus stock. But a month before Christmas, when demand is higher than any other time of year, why on earth would you have a sale??? All suggestions are welcome as I’d like to know.

Just a reminder that if you are here over Christmas time, please sign up to volunteer in one of our projects. There is so much variety and I promise you it will be your favourite part of the holiday time. Please follow this link.

Torah Portion

Jacob returns to Israel and Esau comes to meet him with 400 men – not a welcoming committee. Jacob manages to appease his brother bearing more gifts than the Three Kings themselves. He fights with the angel and his name is changed to Israel.

His daughter, Dina, is raped and his two sons Shimon and Levi wipe out the whole city in revenge. While Jacob doesn't definitively condemn them at the time, he saves his rebuke, in the form of a curse, for closer to his death when he feels they will be more open to listening. The portion concludes with the respective lineages of Esau and Jacob.

Davar Torah
Insisting that life blesses us

This is an idea that I heard a few years ago from the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks.

When Jacob returns from Haran to meet his brother Esau, he is assailed during the night by an angel. The angel battles with him until the morning, but is unable to overcome him. In the end, the angel manages to damage his leg and is about to depart, but Jacob holds on saying he will not let go until the angel blesses him – which the angel is forced to do.

The Chief Rabbi explained that this is the Jewish approach to troubles. There is no circumstance that does not bring blessing if we ‘hold on tight’ and ensure that it does. If we look at events in our lives and insist that they ‘bless us’ – not letting go until they do – we will find goodness in even the most adverse circumstances. It may not happen immediately; it can take weeks and months and sometimes even years – but we know that God loves us and that there is nothing he sends us that is not for our ultimate benefit, as long as we open ourselves up to that possibility.

Our problem, more often than not, is that we do not allow circumstances to bless us, because we are so convinced that they are doing the opposite. And when we are entrenched in such a position, no amount of genuine blessing will change our mind.

This has been the Jewish way for all of our history. From the horrors of Egyptian slavery was born the very nation itself. From the Babylonian exile came a revival in Jewish learning unrivalled in all of our history. From the Greek desecration came a rededicated Temple. From the Roman destruction came the Mishna and the Talmud. From the Inquisition came the great Jewish communities of Western Europe and, rising from the ashes of the holocaust, came the State of Israel.

We have been a nation that looks adversity in the face and is not satisfied with a mere, ‘we will overcome’. We demand a step further. We will not thrive in spite of adversity. Rather we will thrive because of it.

History has shown that, like our forefather Jacob, when we insist that adversity bless us – it always does.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

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