Vayishlach: Thanksgiving




Thanksgiving – this coming week – is a time when many Americans have the custom to visit their families. For some it is clearly a very heartwarming and nostalgic experience. But many others dread the holidays. They are terrified of revisiting a place that never felt like home, a place where a smiling veneer masked much pain. Whether it was due to their parents’ unhappy marriages, insecurities or other dysfunctions, for many people home simply did not feel like home.

Some don’t even have a clue what a home is supposed to feel like … or how it might feel to be in a place where everyone is not constantly judged or criticized, in a place where everyone is loved and accepted unconditionally.

This sermon discusses, from a Torah perspective, the nature and importance of a true home – as also emphasized in this week’s Torah reading where Jacob “builds himself a home” – a comfortable, nurturing environment, where you can just kick off your shoes and be yourself, and find safety from a hostile world. For, if you don’t feel secure within, how can you find security outside?

The presence of a true home affects every step of our lives, and the Torah teaches us how we can build such a home now, even if we never knew it in our childhood. As for those of us who did grow up in good homes, these insights can only make us appreciate the gift we were given and help us cultivate even better homes for our families.



Existential loneliness – which challenges all human beings – is this feeling that says to you that, ultimately, you are alone. You might have a loving spouse and family, be surrounded by nurturing and supportive friends and community. Yet at the core of your being, you feel that there is a part of you that cannot totally connect with anyone else, a part of you that exists inside, apart and alone.

Each one of us has that sense of a lonely place inside. And a longing to fill it. But it seems that no matter what we do, the feeling persists.

Some 3600 years ago a lonely man fought a mysterious battle, and the world has never been the same since. His story teaches us that, while the struggle with loneliness is part of life, it is possible to prevail. In fact, you are never really alone and victory is guaranteed.

This sermon dissects Jacob’s dark night as he wrestled with a stranger, and applies it to our lonely travels through our lifetimes, offering hope, inspiration and a solution which lies in revealing unity that is inherently present but concealed in this world.


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The Meaningful Life Center