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Parshat Va-Yishlah


Jacob heads home, very fearful that his angry brother Esau will attack Jacob and his large, prosperous household. Jacob sends gifts ahead for Esau, hoping to soften the blow. "That same night he arose, and taking his two wives, his two maidservants, and his his eleven children, he crossed the ford of the Jabbok...he sent across all his possessions. Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." The two men (represented here by my doormen Tony and Chris, who are very good sports) fight so fiercely that "(the man) wrenched Jacob's hip at its socket...Then he said, 'Let me go for dawn is breaking.' But (Jacob) answered, 'I will not let you go, unless you bless me.' Said the other, 'What is your name?' He replied, 'Jacob.' Said he, 'Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.'" Jacob limps on his bad hip for the rest of his life ("That is why the children of Israel to this day do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the socket of the hip...")--but he and Esau finally reconcile. Dinah, "the daughter whom Leah had borne to Jacob", is raped ("a thing not to be done") by "Shechem son of Hamor" who is desperate to marry his poor victim. (This disturbing scene is eerily relevant to the distasteful news these days.) Her brothers convince Shechem that in order to marry their sister, he and all of his people must become circumcised. "On the third day, when they were in pain" Dinah's brothers Simeon and Levi "came upon the city unmolested and slew all the males". G-d sends Jacob to build an altar to Him on Bethel. Jacob tells his entire household to "'Rid yourselves of the alien gods in your midst' and purify themselves. "G-d appeared again to Jacob...and He blessed him. God said to him, 'You whose name is Jacob You shall be called Jacob no more, But Israel shall be your name... I am El-Shaddai. Be fertile and increase; A nation, yea an assembly of nations, Shall descend from you. Kings shall issue from your loins. The land that I assigned to Abraham and Isaac I assign to you; And to your offspring to come Will I assign the land.'" That is the beautiful democratic state of Israel, the land our people have loved, and longed for and lived in from then until today. Shabbat Shalom!

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