Torah Portion: Vayishlach (And He Sent) B’resheet (Genesis) 32-36
Haftorah Reading: Hosea 11:7-12:12
Today we cover one of the pivotal events in the life of Jacob. He is about to meet his estranged twin, Esau, after 20 years apart. I’m sure the words of his brother are still ringing in his ears. We read them in Genesis 27:41. As Jacob got ready to cross the Jabbok, a stream that became part of the Jordan River, he made plans for the coming meeting. He sent messengers ahead to speak to Esau and to, if possible, placate his anger. He divided his band into groups, hoping if one was attacked the other might escape. He sent a vast amount of livestock over as a gift to Esau. Why do you think he did this? Was it to soothe the anger of Esau or was it to sooth his own guilt over the trick he and his mother had used to fool Isaac and steal the blessing from Esau?
If you could identify a theme of Jacob’s life what do you think it would be? Maybe it was his search for a personal relationship with G-d. Both his father and grandfather had personal experiences with the Father. We see a hint of this in Genesis 32:10, where Jacob prays to the G-d of his grandfather and his father but not to his own personal G-d. It seems clear his relationship with Esau, broken as it was, was standing between Jacob and G-d. I expect we all have had issues that have stood between us and the Father. Things that need to be set straight, things that need to be confessed and set right. This is where Jacob stood on this night in that lonely place. So here Jacob was all alone when he had this confrontation (verse 24). Maybe Jacob was wrestling with his own guilt, that piece of him that had become like Esau, relying on his own strength and wits as he dealt with his father-in-law over the last 20 years. He had become a deceiver, a conniver and was face to face with the fact that to have a personal relationship with G-d would mean change in his life. In the Messianic scriptures we read a similar statement by Paul in Eph. 6:12 and in Romans 7:15-20. Each of us has things that we struggle with, things that we know are wrong but are still tempting us to fall back into old patterns. Maybe that was the process Jacob was going through here in this lonely place. Jacob was successful in his spiritual struggle. It changed him. In fact, his name was changed to Israel, meaning Prince of G-d. This change was evident in several ways. For example, at the end of Genesis 33, in verse 20 we read of him building an altar and calling it by the name of El Elohi, G-d, the G-d of Israel, using his new name. Physically he was changed. He limped for the rest of his life. Every step reminded him of what happened that night, a small price, to be able to have a new and different relationship with G-d. A relationship not built on possessions or power but simple faith that G-d was all he needed.
We have a wonderful example of this in Genesis 33:8-11. Here we read where Jacob wants to give his gift to Esau. Esau, at first refused saying in verse 8, “I have enough.” In Hebrew the word he used for enough is “Rav”, more easily translated as, “a lot.” In verse 11 we read the end of this tidbit between the two brothers. Here in this verse Jacob says to Esau, I have enough.” The Hebrew word used here is “Kol” or in English, “all.” Jacob is no longer a person trying to get by as cheaply as he can, or take all he can get from others. He is telling Esau, “I have everything.” Finally we see the contentment that can come with a relationship with G-d. Jacob ‘s reliance was no longer in his own ability. Now he realized that with G-d he had everything he needed. His security no longer rested in how many sheep he had. His security rested in the Maker of heaven and earth and His provision.
So as we read this story of Jacob I pray we all can come to or already have come to the place of having a relationship with the Father that will truly give us rest and peace in our lives. As we read on over the next few weeks we will see that Jacob still has issues to deal with. His life is not easy but now he has the knowledge that G-d is with Him and he is not alone, as do we all.