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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

12/08/2022 05:00:00 PM

Dec8

Rabbi Josh Whinston

Sometimes our closest relationships are the hardest. Jacob and Esau never seemed to have much affection for each other. Even before they were born, the Torah tells us they quarreled in Rebecca’s womb. In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, Jacob sends messengers to meet Esau and announce that Jacob is returning to the land. After meeting with Esau, the messengers tell Jacob that his brother plans to meet him with 400 men at his side. Understandably, Jacob is fearful. He is worried his brother still wants to kill him. This situation prompts Jacob to separate from the rest of his camp and spend the night across a river where he famously wrestles with a man, often understood as a messenger of God. This is the moment Jacob receives the name Israel, as the messenger tells him, “for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”

Maybe this powerful moment of renaming allowed Jacob to encounter his brother face to face finally. Having overcome even divine forces, Jacob can face his most challenging relationship, the one with his twin brother. Maybe Jacob needed to feel like he finally had equal physical footing with Esau, that he was not only smart but also physically powerful. It is hard to reconcile when one party is insecure in its status.

Tue, January 31 2023 9 Sh'vat 5783