VaYishlach: Releasing our Inner Israel

| parsha reflection |

This parsha, or Torah portion, VaYishlach, which means to drive out or release, tells the story of the reuniting of Yaakov (Jacob) and his brother Esau, and, more specifically, describes the transformation of Yaakov to  Yisrael (Israel), meaning the one who has struggled with the Divinity–and humanity–and prevailed.

Yaakov spends the night before his reunion with Esau wrestling a stranger on the banks of the Jabbok. Yaakov asks who the man/angel/stranger is, where he came from, and why he attacked him. Without answering, the stranger lunges at Yaakov and grabs his foot, felling him to the ground. He tells Yaakov that he doesn’t deserve an answer since he has obtained his advantages in life through deceit. The stranger tells Yaakov that he must leave before sunrise. They wrestle some more and Yaakov grabs the stranger’s heel and refuses to let go until he receives a blessing. The stranger again refuses and then asks Yaakov his name. Yaakov answers that he doesn’t know his name nor who he is.  He continues, “I am Yaakov, the usurper, the cheater, the liar, the one who was blessed, or so I thought.  But my blessing became a curse and I have tried to run from my whole life. That is why I need your blessing. Without it, I am no one. Without it I cannot go on. Without it I don’t have the strength to fulfill G-d’s promise.”

I find the aspect of light in this parsha compelling to contemplate. I interpret Yaakov’s epiphany to mean that he feels he must purge the dark that he has held inside and open his heart to allow the light of truth to enter him before the stranger departs at sunrise.

When Esau returns to Yaakov, to embrace him, Yaakov no longer exists. The stranger tells Yaakov that he has struggled that night with what it means to be human and what it means to be created in the image of the Divine. Yaakov now understands everything that has prevented him from  being able to make the journey that G-d required of him. Therefore, Yaakov no longer exists and now he is Yisrael, the one who struggled with Divinity–and humanity.

The most important type of freedom is to be who you really are. Personally, I have traded my reality for a role–a sort of mask.  I recognize from this story that I must be willing to let go of all attachments to the entire construct of my life; I need to do this energetically with sweetness and sadness; the life I lead today must cease in order for me to live with the aspect of pure light and to be a blessing to all I encounter–like Yisrael. How can you let go with courage to see your true light?

This story begs me to constantly remind myself that anger and hate and revenge hurts me and taints my interactions and relationships.  I invite you to use this kavannah, or intention, to contemplate the blessings that unfold when we are kind to ourselves and to all beings we encounter, as all beings are engaged in their own struggle.