Weekly Davar - Vayishlach: Insisting that life blesses us
The Weekly Davar
In memory of Barry Taylor Z"L
(Genesis 32:4 – 36:43)
Insisting that life blesses us
29th November 2012
15th Kislev, 5773
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
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.
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
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
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
History has shown that, like our forefather Jacob, when we insist that adversity bless us – it always does.
Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt
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