Torah Portion:  Vayishlach (And He Sent) B’resheet (Genesis) 32:4-36:43

Haftorah Reading: Obadiah 1:1-21


Tonight we read one of the pivotal moments of Yaakov’s life. It involves his meeting with his twin brother, Esau, after a separation of at least 20 years. If you remember, his mother Rebekah/Rivka sent him away to stay with her family and promised to send for him when Esau’s anger cooled. He never received that word from his mother. Rather, G-d instructed him to return home. So, we find him here in the night before meeting his brother Esau.

Think back through Yaakov’s life. How did he deal with sin, in the past and now including this meeting? What can we learn from this pattern of Yaakovs? It seems he mainly dealt with sin by running away from it rather than actually dealing with the issue. Is that a constructive way to deal with a problem? 


In our own life I expect most of us have had times of avoiding or fleeing from sin we committed or interpersonal conflicts. This usually never works out well. Conflicts do not get resolved by avoiding an issue and sin does not get forgiven by pretending we didn’t commit the sin.


Here Yaakov sent his family over the river while he stayed on the other side alone. Some commentators suggest even here his initial plan was to flee However, while alone he met a figure. Some say it was a man he met, some say an angel and others say it was G-d. Hosea says in Hosea 12:4 it was G-d. Whomever it was, they struggled all night.


As dawn was coming, the person changed Yaakov’s name to Israel. What was the meaning of this new name? Yaakov had struggled his entire life in his flesh to work things out, to be in control. Finally, he came to the place of letting go of his efforts and allowing G-d to be his Master. When we look back to the ladder vision he had when he left the Land, even then he tried to set the framework of what would be. (Genesis 28:19-21) Control is a hard thing for any of us to relinquish. Yaakov had the same problem. We think we can work it out. We think we can handle it. Here Yaakov came to the place of realizing he needed G-d’s help. I imagine with every step he took, after this encounter, his hip injury reminded him of this meeting, this wrestling match.


I believe we all come to that time in our life when we find ourselves alone and possibly broken. It is in those times we are most open to the Hand of the Father, when we realize we are lost without Him. Here Yaakov changed. His new name reflected that fact. Up until this time his name reflected someone who followed his own path. His new name, Israel, gave new purpose to his life. Translated the name Israel means, “Prince of G-d.” In our life, when we come to that time of surrender to the Father, it is like we are a new creation. (II Cor. 5:17, Eph 4:24.)


As we follow Yaakov in the next verses, we see him coming to a place he bought from the local ruler, a man named Hamor. There he erected an altar and name it El Elohe Israel meaning, G-d, the G-d if Israel.


Interestingly, this parcel of land is later used as the burial place for Joseph when the people returned from Egyptian slavery. It is the second piece of land purchased by G-d’s people, land that was promised by G-d to them. The first piece bought was purchased by Avraham, the cave of Machpelah in Hebron. King David later bought the threshing floor on Mt. Zion where later the Temple would stand.


So as we have looked at Yaakov’s struggle with the man, and we saw him give all his strength in the struggle the whole night through, he then received a blessing, a name change and the assurance he had truly seen G-d. It should inspire us in our own walk with the Father. He will be there. We can trust Him to show us what is worth fighting for and how to find our real meaning and worth in following Him.


In Genesis 35:8-12 we read where G-d appeared to Yaakov again and changed his name again renewing the covenant with him of the Land and a people. I think this gave Yaakov strength as he soon had to bury his wife Rachel.