Monday, November 26, 2007

Parashot haShavua

KMTT offers nearly every week a 30-45 minute lesson about parashat hashavua. Last week we had parashat vayetze - when Jacob meets Rachel at the well and we understand this is the woman he is supposed to marry. Parallels are seen with Eliezer's quest to find a bride for Isaac, and met Rebecca at a well, as well. There is much emulation going on between the generations as already noted before.

This week's parashat vayishlach, contains the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel and left wounded. He was fleeing from Esau and I had always had a feeling Esau had something to do with this nightly fight. Rabbi Chanoch Waxman points out that some interpretations to the story indeed suggest that this angel is in a way an emissary from Esau. But suppose it is God's angel, what would be the meaning of the struggle? The effect by all means is Jacob cannot flee from Esau and he has to stand up in front of his brother. Another effect is his new name: Israel. In a way Jacob acquires a new identity. One who no longer flees, or wriggles and schemes, but rather a strong man who can stand up before men. Here he becomes the forefather.

Listen to the podcast in order to find out how Waxman construes the argument. I couldn't help savouring the thought of a banality enriched with Greater Meaning. Jacob is afraid of his brother and tries to flee. During the flight he gets injured on his leg and cannot continue, therefore has to face his plight. In order to deal with the question what would be the meaning of all this, the struggle with the angel is invented. It is a way of looking at life. Not taking any banal coincidence as just that, but always searching for a deeper meaning.