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November 22, 2002 - Image 62

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Spirituality

Send
a Chanukah Gift
to Israel.

Malli N SCfte Wi/Z

SUPPORTS
ISRAEL'S
RED CROSS.

DAV10 An:

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11/22
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62

causes us great pain. For anyone
who seriously engages in a faith-
journey — a search for God, a
meaningful understanding of what
the "Covenant" is all about — the
language of these verses strikes
home.
n last week's Torah reading,
Jacob and the man fight to a
Jacob flees the anger of his
draw: Neither can win; neither
father and brother to find
loses. Upon their mutual release, the
safety with his mother's fami-
man announces that Jacob will no
ly. This week, we find Jacob return-
longer be called by that
ing to his homeland a
name, but by Yisrael,
changed man.
meaning "one who strug-
He has learned much
gled with God." The
from his dealings with his
change announces that
father-in-law, Laban; now,
Jacob is a new person, and
he is about to meet his
his relationship with the
brother, Esau, as he passes
Divine has changed signif-,
over the river-border on his
icantly.
way home.,
But this transforming
It is night; Jacob takes
wrestling, with its reward,
his family across the river
RAB BI JOSEPH is not without its cost; for
and then re-crosses alone.
KLEIN
Jacob-Israel now limps.
Then, Genesis 32:25 seems
Having encountered God
Spe
vial
to
the
to be a paradox. The text
"face to face," Jacob learns
Jew
ish
News
reads: "Jacob was left all
a painful lesson in humili-
alone and a man wrestled
ty and about relationships.
with him until dawn."
In our Jewish tradition, when
If he was "all alone" where did
God "speaks to us," the message
this "man" come from? The text car-
prompts a struggle to understand, a
ries us from the first statement that
wrestling with ideas and values. If
there was no one around directly
God within us is something like
into the second: that someone was
what we call "conscience," then are
there! So who is he?
not all of us Jacob-becoming-Israel
If the text seems to be problemat-
— locked together, "me with me,"
ic, the context explains: The
looking for release before the dawn?
Hebrew reads with remarkably simi-
And when we are able to release
lar words. Jacob (Ya-akov) comes to
ourselves, we are better for the
the Jabok (Ya-vok) crossing, and
struggle, but also somewhat the
there he wrestles (yeh-avek) with
worse for wear.
someone. Ya-akov at the Ya-vok, yeh-
Our people has taken the name
aveks!
of the transformed Jacob for our
I would suggest that this coinci-
communal own. May each of us
dence of similar sounding words is
within Israel continue the struggle
not accidental. The place in the
of the first Israel, growing and
river, the crossing called Jabok, is
maturing as did Jacob our father. ❑
really the name Jacob turned inside
out. The verb "wrestling" yeh-avek is
itself an inside-out Ya-akov —
Jacob. Could the "man" be an
inside-out Jacob as well?
Jacob names the place of the
Is it possible that he is struggling
wrestling Penu-el, the "face of
with himself? Whoever this man is,
God." In what sense does each of
he says that Jacob has struggled with
us wrestle to find God's face?
God and with men and has pre-
Jacob limps away from the pre-
vailed. Might it be that he has
dawn encounter. In what sense
struggled with what "connects God
does our struggle to find God or
with men," the relationship between
faith become sometimes a
the Divine and the human?
painful experience? In what ways
That struggle is one in which all
is our struggle to find God in the
of us engage. At times, the conflict
darkness of fear or anxiety mir-
rored in Genesis 32?
Joseph Klein is rabbi of Temple

Shabbat Vayislach:
Genesis 32:4 - 36:43;
Hosea 11:7-12:12.

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Transforming Jacob Into Israel:
Wrestling With God, Conscience

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EXPIRES 01/31/03

Torah Portion

COMMITTED TO SAVING LIVES IN ISRAEL.

Emanu-El.

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