Va-Yishlach (Bereshit/Genesis 32:4 - 36:43)
For the week of 14 Kislev 5758
December 13, 1997

Struggling with God

Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,
because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome
(Genesis/Bereshit 28:12).

In this week's portion Jacob faces his dreaded moment. He left his homeland originally because his brother Esau had vowed to murder him. Now as Jacob returns over twenty years later, he prepares to meet Esau.

Like the other challenges of his life, he has a plan. He thinks he may be able to pacify his brother's anger by giving him a great number of livestock. Placing his entourage between himself and Esau's company, he waits alone.

All through that night God wrestles with Jacob. And though God injures him, Jacob won't let go until God blesses him.

Much speculation could be made as to the meaning of this event. But we do know two things. God did bless him with a new name and by morning he was ready to meet Esau face to face. Jacob never settled for the way things were and constantly strove for what he wanted. Yet here at the end of his rope, he struggles with God himself and emerges a new man.

We can question Jacob's motivation and methods in his dealings with life and people. But in this story, like the others, his striving is towards God and not away from him. I believe this is why God blessed him.

As we go through life, there are so many things that cause us to struggle with God. Sadly many people choose to turn away from him instead of wrestling through. Unanswered questions, disappointments, bereavements, injustices tempt us to pull away. But those who seek God, believing in his goodness, love and faithfulness in spite of circumstances, find a blessing and emerge in newness just like Jacob.