Parasha With Passion – Torah Reading Cycle – Week #8
In Parashat Vayishlach Jacob wrestles with God, encounters Esau, sojourns at Beth-El, Dinah is defiled, Rachel dies in childbirth, Ruben sins, Jacob returns to Canaan, and Isaac is gathered to his fathers.
Wow, what a power pack Torah portion. There is a lot to glean from all the life experiences that Jacob encountered in Parashat Vayishlach. However, there is one major theme that we want to focus our attention on today and that is dealing with hard relationships.
In today’s world we use terms like “brand.” A brand is the name that a product is known by. For example, Levi’s jeans is a brand. Levi’s are known for their quality. We are all known for our qualities.
Last week we learned that Jacob was also known for his qualities. Jacob had a brand that he didn’t like. Jacob was a schemer. Jacob went through life orchestrating one scheme after the other, often hurting the people he loved.
However, in this week’s parashah, in (Genesis 32:25-32) the distraught patriarch met God at Peniel. During his encounter with God, Jacob refused to leave God’s presence without a blessing. This is a common theme in Jacob’s life. However, Jacob received more than what he bargained for. That day God changed Jacob’s brand. God gave Jacob a new name – Israel.
“Then He said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but rather Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and you have overcome.”
We are changed in the presence of our holy God. After his encounter with God, the man Israel would never walk the same again.
Like Jacob, we all have some sought of “limp“ that reminds us that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Jacob had his limp. I have my limp. You have your limp. We all have a limp. I tell you, I am a far better person with a limp than I ever was without one. Jacob limped on into His destiny leaning upon the Lord – and so will I – and so will you! God does amazing things with people who have a limp.
Sweetly broken, now Jacob was ready to meet his brother Esau and resolve the twenty year conflict that he had created when he cheated his brother out of his birthright (Genesis Chapter 27). Will Esau kill Jacob? Will the bitterness between the two brothers remain? Will the wounds between them finally be healed?
Tense and apprehensive, Jacob sends gifts meant to appease his brother Esau. Yet, Esau prepares for their meeting like a warrior ready for battle and surrounds himself with a 400-man army.
At last, the tension is broken and Esau falls on Jacob’s neck and kisses him. Esau welcomes his brother Jacob and blesses him. The greatest act of kindness that we can receive is to be shown God’s love when we don’t deserve it. It is important to note that it was Esau who made the first move towards restoration.
The Bible says that “Esau fell on Jacob’s neck and kissed him.” But what does Esau’s kiss mean? Rashi points out an argument in the Midrash regarding whether the kiss was a sincere act or an empty gesture. In Jewish thought we learn that doing a commandment without the proper intent is like a body without a soul. We must obey the Torah and we must do so with the right heart.
Esau’s kiss can simply be taken at face value as a sign of reconciliation. Twenty years had gone by. Both men had done a lot of living and suffering. Jacob was not the man that he was twenty years ago, but neither was Esau.
Judging Esau by his poignant act of reconciliation, we can view Esau as a changed man. Although not the patriarch that would lead God’s people; Esau, nonetheless, became a powerful and prosperous man who built his own nation. Although Esau was not chosen by God, perhaps the Torah gives him some credibility as Parashat Vayishlach closes with the incredible genealogy of Jacob’s brother Esau.
In closing, the only thing that we will take with us into eternity is our love for one another. God cares that we get along with one another. A household divided, a family divided, a congregation divided, and a community divided will not stand.
Yeshua said in (Luke 17:1) that offenses will come. However, when offenses do come, let us be the first to reconcile like Esau, falling on one another’s neck, bringing peace wherever there is conflict. Amen.
Torah: Genesis 32:3 – 36:43
Haftarah: Obadiah 1:1-21
Next Torah Portion: Vayeshev