by Simon Jacobson
November 29, 2012
Jacob remained alone. A man wrestled with
him until dawn
This weeks Torah portion, Genesis 32:25
During the night of Exile, the nations of the world and
the kingdom of Edom (Esau) wrestle with Jacob, until the dawn
Midrash Lekach Tov on the verse
Esau told Jacob: I will travel alongside
you. My lord you know that the children are weak and I have
responsibility for the nursing sheep and cattle. If they are
driven hard for even one day, they will die
ahead of me
I will lead my group slowly, following the
pace of the work ahead of me, and the pace of the children.
I will eventually come to you, my lord, in Seir [Edom]
- Genesis 33:12-13
And when will he [Jacob] go [to Seir]? In
the days of Moshiach, as it says (Ovadiah 1:21) Redeemers
will ascend Mount Zion to judge the Mount of Esau, and the
kingdom will be G-ds
The stage is set. Jacob is returning to Israel
after 20 years of exile. Twenty years previously he fled from
his brother Esau who, furious at the fact that Jacob stole
his birthright and blessings from him, wanted to kill him.
During his years in exile, Jacob built a strong home and large
family. He matured extensively during his twenty year tenure
under his complex and cunning uncle and father-in-law, Laban.
The big day has come. What will happen when
Jacob meets Esau after all these years? Has Esaus anger
waned? Has he forgiven what Jacob did to him?
Jacob and Esau represent two nations
in a perpetual struggle (see Jacob
and Esau: Two Nations) the battle between
matter and spirit, between body and soul, between the G-dly
and the mundane, between religion and science, between the
religious and the secular. In personal terms the battle
between selfishness and dedication to a higher calling.
What happens when Esau and Jacob finally confront
each other? What does it teach us about dealing with our own
challenges, our own version of the Jacob/Esau confrontation?
Can peace be achieved between matter and spirit, body and
soul G-d and the universe?
So, this weeks parsha is a critical one
being that in it we learn about this momentous/archetypal
confrontation, which teaches us about all confrontations to
come up to and including the confrontations of our
Many lessons can be derived from this weeks
story in dealing with and conquering adversity. Here are some
ASSESS THE SITUATION
Before confronting Esau Jacob first sends messengers
to scout out what lies ahead and to meet Esau. The first step
in facing an adversary is to understand their intentions,
assess their strengths and review all your options.
You must be well prepared. Jacobs message
to Esau was: I have lived with Laban, and have delayed
my return until now. Even while living with the corrupt
Laban I remained committed to the 613 mitzvahs,
and maintained my relationship with G-d. Jacobs words
teach us that before facing the harsh realities of life we
must build a secure home base, firmly standing on the pillars
and foundations of faith, spirit and a strong value system
The only way to complete the transformation
of the material world is by imbuing others with energy to
carry the spirit further. Our work in refining the Esaus
and Edoms of our life includes inspiring
others to become messengers that carry the power.
It is not enough to do the work alone; the barometer of our
own success is our ability to affect and influence others
in the same spirit. We are social creatures; our lives affect
and are affected by other people. In life you have two and
only two choices: Either you influence others or they influence
COVER ALL BASES
Jacob prepares to face Esau by covering all
his bases: He prays to G-d; he prepares gifts to appease him;
and he prepares for battle.
Prayer: Speak to G-d and implore Him to help
you. Faith and prayer connect you to your higher purpose.
This connection to above gives you the fortitude and persistence
to face any challenge, the confidence to face any adversary.
Appeasement: When confronting any challenge
in the material world around us, it is critical to study and
analyze the enemy and learn what speaks
to it, what can reach and perhaps change his mind.
War: As a last resort you must prepare to fight
The ultimate objective is not to destroy but
to transform the enemy. Not to annihilate the material world
but to shape it into a channel for the spiritual. To do so
effectively, you need to begin with prayer, to access G-ds
strength to succeed in your facing your challenges. Then you
need to assess the challenge and find a way to win it over,
to speak to and persuade it on its own terms to reconcile
with you. Finally, if all else fails you must be ready to
go to war and confront your enemy.
NOTHING IS TOO SMALL
In preparation for encountering Esau the following
day, Jacob ferries his family across the Yabbok stream, but
he remains behind alone, to retrieve some "small
jars" of his that were left behind. There, "a man
wrestled with him until dawn."
The small jars represent the last
containers that we need to elevate and refine
in fulfilling our Divine mission in spiritualizing the material
world. Each person is allocated an allotment of Divine
sparks (spiritual energy) that is embedded
as energy in containers in our material
possessions and property. Everything that comes your way in
life contains these sparks your home, relationships,
furniture, work, car, food, entertainment, activities, travel
destinations. You are charged with the responsibility to discover
and reveal these sparks by directing all your activities to
a higher, spiritual purpose.
Jacob teaches us that our work must not only
consist of the big things in life, it must include
all aspects, even the small jars. Nothing should
remain neglected. Every part of our lives can and needs to
Jacob remained alone.
The spiritual journey is often a lonely one. At times you
may feel that you are all alone in your work of redeeming
the small jars. People around you may be involved
in all types of glamorous pursuits, and you could feel isolated
in your spiritual search. Your search may pale in comparison
to whats happening out there. Even then
you must remain steadfast in your mission. Your integrity
is at stake even when its unpopular.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
The spiritual journey is often a lonely one.
It includes many challenges and battles. Standing alone you
will encounter forces with which you must wrestle. And this
wrestling will occur during the night, when it is dark and
desolate, as Jacob wrestles with Esaus angel. This wrestling
represents the cosmic struggle between matter and spirit,
and Jacobs victory empowers us to prevail over any adversary
In truth, you are never really alone. It only
appears that way especially in the cover of night. When you
wrestle with an adversary and dont run away, you realize
that you have power. Sometimes that power is just enough to
make it through the night, to see it through difficult times.
But then when dawn breaks, you see that you have prevailed.
Indeed, the next day when Jacob finally meets
Esau, Esaus heart opens to his brother. Esau
ran to meet him. He hugged [Jacob] and throwing himself on
his shoulders, kissed him. They [both] wept.
After all Jacobs work and preparation
for this encounter with Esau his 20 years with Laban,
building is home and family, his prayer and gifts, his angel
wrestling he is able to face him and reconcile. The
two nations and worlds, the two cosmic forces that are Esau
and Jacob, have both matured to the point where they can begin
to coexist with each other.
The sages argue whether or not this was a complete
and sincere reconciliation. The argument reflects the difficulty
of integrating the two. Either way the process of resolution
between matter and spirit has begun.
THE WORK AHEAD
Witnessing their reunion, Esau suggests to Jacob
that they come together and join forces. However Jacob wisely
recognizes that their reunion was only a good beginning. My
lord you know that the children are weak and I have responsibility
for the nursing sheep and cattle. If they are driven hard
for even one day, they will die
Please go ahead of me
I will lead my group slowly, following the pace of the work
ahead of me, and the pace of the children. I will eventually
come to you, my lord, in Seir.
Jacob is telling Esau and all of us that there
is much work to be done in resolving the inherent tension
between the material and the spiritual. And this work must
be done with complete focus. Jacob rejects even Esaus
offer to help by putting some of my people at your
disposal, even that poses too great of a risk. Just
let me remain on friendly terms with you, Jacob
Today, after 3568 years of work, the world has
become refined and the reconciliation can be completed. Jacob
can finally fulfill his promise to Esau, I will eventually
come to you, and the world can be united under one
G-d, with each nation serving in its own unique way.
Each of us must ask ourselves the question:
Is my Jacob ready to meet and make peace with
my Esau? Is my material life aligned with my spiritual
one? Have I integrated what I do with who I am?
The final frontier is upon us. As Esau, Jacob,
Ishmael confront each other, they are challenged to embrace
the G-d of their father Abraham a G-d who wants to
be at peace with the universe. A peace that can only be achieved
when we do our part in revealing the G-dliness in everything
And so this weeks Torah portion closes
the chapter of Esau. Just as the portion of Chayei Sarah concludes
with the chronicles
of Ishmael, and the portion of Toldot concludes
marriage to Ishmaels daughter, this weeks
portion concludes with the chronicles of Esau. It details
Esaus family line and the leaders and nations that would
descend from him, concluding with Magdiel, founder of Rome.
The seeds have been planted for the confrontations
to come. The question today is: Do we understand the message?