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Parshat ViShlach

By: Mrs. Neima Novetsky

In the middle of our parshah, after Ya'akov's encounter with Esav, we are told "vayavo Ya'akov shalem, Ir Shechem..." - "And Ya'akov came, complete (orwhole) to the City of Shechem."  As one reads the pasuk, though, one wonders, "Really?  Did we not just read in the previous chapter how Ya'akov struggled with the angel, and left, not whole, but rather with an injured thigh?"


Rashbam (Rabbi Shemuel b. Meir, the grandson of Rashi) solves our problem by getting rid of the question entirely.  He suggests that the word shalem is not an adjective but a proper noun, the name of the city to which Ya'akov came.  Shechem, on the other hand is not a place name, but a person's name.  The verse, then, reads:  "And Ya'akov arrived in [the place called] Shalem, which was the city [belonging to the person named] Shechem. And, if so, our question is no longer relevant.


Rashi, though, prefers our first understanding of the word shalem, and tells us that the pasuk is saying that Ya'akov arrived whole - in his body, his money and his learning.  Despite the time spent in Lavan' house, the large gift he gave Esav and the encounter with the angel, Ya'akov was still rich, learned and physically able.  But, if so, we are back to our original question:  How can this be?


There is, perhaps, a hidden message in Rashi's words.  All of us, at some points in our lives "struggle with an angel", and more often than not, like Ya'akov, we emerge from those struggles, even when successful, hurt in some way.  We leave with a limp.  For some, that "limp" does not allow them to walk.  It paralyzes them; it becomes their identity.  Others, though, have the same exact limp, the same exact disability or handicap, but, they choose not to see it as such.  They prefer to see it a challenge to overcome.  They take their limp and learn to walk, even to run. Despite their handicap, or maybe because of it, they walk even farther, run even faster. 

Ya'akov, after his struggle with the angel could have continued to call himself  Ya'akov, from the work akev or heel.  Or, he could choose to call himself Yisrael - "for you have struggled with God and man and have prevailed". Ya'akov could have looked at himself as lame, but he chose to look at himself as shalem, as whole.




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