Torah Fax

Friday, December 16, 2005 - 15 Kislev, 5766
Torah Reading: VaYishlach (Genesis 32:4 - 36:43)
Candle Lighting Time:  4:11 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:16 PM

Standing Alone


Our Parshah tells us that immediately prior to Jacob meeting his brother Esau, Jacob sends his family ahead and he remains alone, collecting the last few items from his campsite. At that point, he is met by this mysterious individual who wrestles with him all night. In the end, this attacker manages to injure Jacob, by dislocating his sciatic nerve, but was compelled by Jacob to admit defeat. This he did by changing Jacob's name from Jacob to Israel , which connotes the idea of being "the master over G‑d and people."
According to our Sages, the mysterious attacker was not a person but indeed an angel-the guardian angel of Esau. And the meaning of being a "master over G‑d" is that he was victorious over angels of G‑d.
While there are many enigmatic parts to this story, there is one that has serious implications for the Jewish people, particularly in our day and age.
If this attacker was a mere mortal, then we could understand why he waited for Jacob to be alone before attacking. But, now that we know that he was in reality an angel, why did he wait for Jacob to be alone? Who could stop an angel from harming Jacob?
The answer to this question lies in a better understanding of what it means for a person to be alone. Loneliness is one of the most difficult situations to confronts humans. We are social animals and we have a need to be together with others. This is so central to our humanity that soon after creating Adam, G‑d tells him, "It is not good for man to be alone." He then creates Eve to be Adam's life companion.
But loneliness is not only difficult from an emotional vantage point; it also makes us vulnerable to all the negative forces that surround us, because the lonely individual craves companionship, and may not discriminate between the positive and the negative ones.
Many commentators have described the loneliness of our forefather Jacob, his vulnerability and ultimate victory as a paradigm for the future of the Jewish people.
We have always been alone. Our Sages describe our relationship with the other nations of the world as "one sheep among seventy wolves." And it is this loneliness that has caused so many of our people to look for acceptance by other nations. This craving for acceptance and companionship takes many forms. In its mildest form, we look to emulate the culture of others, failing to discover and appreciate our own unique culture. In the most extreme form, many Jews have been known to identify with their enemies and their desire to vilify and even destroy us. Unfortunately, both forms-and everything in between-have become common especially in recent years.
In the end, two things will happen:
First the people who we try to appease will turn against those who have sought their companionship and acceptance. One glaring example of this was the way Stalin murdered all of the Jewish communists who were among the most loyal members of his party, and fought ruthlessly against Jews and Judaism. Yet, Stalin killed them precisely because they were Jews. It made no difference that they had tried so hard to be part of the system; the "system" never recognized them as anything but Jews.
The second thing that will happen, paradoxically, is that the nations that stood against us will ultimately concede that we are Israel, to be respected and emulated. The sooner we begin to have self-respect and recognize that we are part of a continuum of thousands of years of bringing G‑d's light into the world, the sooner the nations of the world will assist us in our mission.
Indeed, we can now see both responses of the nations of the world towards the Jewish people materializing before our eyes.
On the one hand, we are witness to unprecedented, almost universal, opposition to our rights to the Land of Israel, coming not only from our most implacable enemies in the far-right or far-left, but even from the most "sophisticated" leaders in the academic world. Many of those, who we felt were the most tolerant and liberal members of society that we craved to be identified with, have turned against us.
And simultaneously, some of our erstwhile enemies in the former Soviet Union, among others, have given us their blessings and assisted us in building communities, synagogues and Jewish schools.
This paradoxical phenomenon is a sign of the times we are in. As discussed in previous messages, we are now living on the threshold of the Messianic Redemption. So we are straddling the fence, as it were, between Galut-exile and Geulah-Redemption, and we therefore experience characteristics of both.
The way we can push ourselves over the top of the fence into the exclusive arena of the Messianic Age, is to not lose our self-respect by realizing that we are indeed a nation that stands alone, in a positive sense, because we were given a G‑d given mission to be a light unto the nations. This we do primarily by living unabashedly as Jews steeped in Judaism, and spreading more goodness and kindness to all. 


Moshiach Matters
The ultimate promise [of Redemption] is not limited to the Jewish people alone. The redemption of the Jew is closely linked to the emancipation of all humanity as well as the destruction of evil and tyranny. It is the first step in man's return to G‑d, where all mankind will be united into "a single band" to fulfill G‑d's purpose. This is the "Kingdom of the Alm-ghty" in the Messianic Era. (The Real Messiah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)

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