December 12, 2019


12.13.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

I am very grateful to Chaplain Adam Siegel and Kathryn Vischjager for their attendance at the Hillel Conference this week.  They met with Hillel professionals from all over and promoted and represented our Elaine Breslow Institute and Beit T’Shuvah.  They did a wonderful job, and I have received rave reviews!  I also am grateful to Nicole Goodman for promoting the Elaine Breslow Institute at the Hillel Conference and at the USCJ/RA convention that I presented at this week as well.  Also a big shout out to Michael Kamenir and Jessica Fishel for their tireless and productive work in spreading the message of our Institute and Beit T’Shuvah by setting up speaking engagements, workshops, and Freedom Song performances all over the country.

This week’s Parashah is VaYishlach.  This translates as “and he sent.”  We are reading of the meeting between Esau and Jacob after all of these years, and we are given an insight to Jacob’s fears about returning to Esau and his father’s house.  Just as last week, Jacob has a few Spiritual Encounters that he doesn’t follow up on to make changes to his Inner Life.

What Spiritual encounters have changed you, and how are you continuing to grow your inner life?

 The first is when he gets afraid because Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.  He is sure that Esau still harbors anger and resentment and is coming to kill him and his family.  Immediately after this thought, he says a prayer: “O God…. I am made small from all the kindness and all the truth/faith you have done with your servant…”  He asks God for deliverance from Esau, who “I fear, may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike.”  Here is another opportunity for Jacob to surrender, do T’Shuvah, and have a broader vision of why his brother is coming to meet him.  He has not considered that his brother is glad he is back.  He has not considered that Esau has gotten on with his life and not stayed stuck in anger and resentment.  Jacob has stayed stuck in the past, and without doing T’Shuvah and truly surrendering to God unconditionally instead of making his surrender conditional on God doing for him first, Jacob has to stay stuck.

What areas of the past are you still stuck in?  How have you been oblivious to the Spiritual Encounters that help you grow?  Which encounters have you embraced and grown from?

 The second example is after Jacob wrestles with the Angel/Man/God.  He realizes that he has seen God “face to face” and still is unable to accept his brother’s love and offer of friendship, connection, and help.  How sad!  Jacob is, like many of us, afraid to accept help because he feels a) unworthy because he did such a terrible thing to Esau and his actions/he, himself are unforgiveable; b) he can’t admit his errors because he is afraid to truly look inside of himself and would rather blame/defame another person; c) is too narcissistic and makes himself a victim all the time.  Esau “ran to greet him, embraced him, kissed him and they wept.”  None of this was enough for Jacob to connect in truth, kindness, and faith with his brother.  Even though earlier he acknowledged God doing this for and to him, he is unable to rise above his ego to be human with his own flesh and blood.

Whose friendship and love are you unable to accept because of your own actions?  What causes you to refuse to connect when people call out to you?  When are you blaming others rather than looking inside?

 Jacob lives in victim mode for the rest of his life.  He complains and wails and never does a complete T’Shuvah.  The experience with the Angel/Man/God wounds him, and he doesn’t use the wound to heal, rather he feels justified in his victimhood because of it and because life happens.  Jacob, who was my first hero, never matures emotionally or spiritually.  His story, juxtaposed with Judah’s story, tells me why we are named after Judah and why the Tribe of Judah survived and thrived.  Judah did T’Shuvah, looked inside and changed.  Jacob just couldn’t.

Which one of our ancestors are you following, Judah or Jacob/Joseph?  Judah is my hero and example; I hope he is yours also.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mark