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Parshat Va-Yishlach

By: Mrs. Rena Coren

In this week’s parshah, we learn about the battle between Yaakov Avinu and the angel of Eisav.  Though Yaakov succeeds in overcoming the angel, he is wounded (albeit temporarily) in the fight.  Before releasing the angel, Yaakov asks for a blessing, and the angel complies by changing his name from Yaakov to YisraelKi sarita im elokim ve-im anashim va-tuchal" (Bereshit 32:28).


The Piascetzner Rebbe (known as the Aish Kodesh), HY”D, offers a beautiful explanation of this event which sheds light on the deeper implications of this battle for all generations. Why does Yaakov Avinu insist on receiving this blessing from the angel of Eisav? Wasn’t it enough for him to have been blessed by Hashem Himself (see Bereshit ch. 28)?


The Rebbe answers, “Ma’aseh avot siman la-banim.” After Yaakov had struggled and won, the malach wanted to return to shamayim. Yaakov, however, would not release the angel, for he said to himself, “Is this what will happen to my descendants? After they suffer pain and tragedies, will their only salvation be that their enemies will not have defeated them? After struggling to escape the evil hands bent to destroy them, will my children return to the same emotional and spiritual level they had occupied before they suffered?  He refuses to allow this to happen, and therefore does not release the angel until receiving a blessing. 


Yaakov is teaching us, his children, that when we experience our own suffering, it is not enough to just go back to the way we were before we faced the challenge. We must learn from the ways of Yaakov Avinu and seek the berachah from the painful experience. We must learn to see the good that resulted from the situation and the growth that can be achieved through having suffered.


In the end, the angel complies with Yaakov’s request and blesses him by changing his name to Yisrael. The angel tells Yaakov, “Ki sarita” – first you will fight, and then “va-tuchal,” you will overcome. The Rebbe explains that the angel is also implying that even before “va-tuchal,” even before you overcome, while you are yet the grip of great suffering, “Ki sarita,” in the sense of the word “sar” – rise above by not despairing from the situation.


Hashem knows all of the tzarot (difficulties) that Bnei Yisrael suffer on a national and personal level – terror attacks, possibilities of forfeiting parts of Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim Ir Ha-Kodesh, disease and sickness, shalom bayyit problems, chinuch issues, each individual’s daily internal struggles – the list goes on and on. May we be blessed not only to escape despair amid our hardships, not only to survive these struggles, but indeed that we find the strength to take the berachah from each situation and become better for it.       .  




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