Vayishlach: A Face to Face Conversation



What personal lessons can we learn from emojis, Facebook and other modern tech stuff?

Many things. And they are contained in a surprising place, where most of us would perhaps not look: A verse in this week’s Torah portion.

An emoji is an animated face that conveys an emotion, thought, or expression in a few tiny pixels. It achieves this by distilling one human characteristic – joy, sadness, laughter, love – into an easily-identifiable image.

Faces are like that. They capture something essential in their complexion. This may be the two-billion-faces-strong power of Facebook, a book of faces that captures and shares people’s essence across the World Wide Web. But technology can also belie that essence, as when the face has been photo-shopped to conceal its owner’s true nature.

Now you may be asking, “What does all of this have to do with Judaism and G-d?”

The answer is: everything. And it can be found in this week’s Torah reading, where we learn how Jacob named the place where he wrestled with the angel, where he came face-to-face with the Divine, Pniel, and why it was later called Pnuel.

Discover the radical difference between the word “face” in English and the word for face in Hebrew – panim. A discussion of the above is augmented by a reflective story told by Rabbi Meir of Premishlan about a horse who thought that its face reflected in the water was another horse. It is a story that teaches us something profound about our animal nature and our divine nature that transcends it.


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