כִּי שָׂרִיתָ עִם אֱ-לֹקים וְעִם אֲנָשִׁים וַתּוּכָל…
Because you struggled (כִּי־שָׂרִיתָ) with G-d and with man and prevailed (32:29).
Bnei Yisroel is named after the epic altercation between Yaakov and the Angel of Eisav. The two of them fought all through the night, and although the angel couldn’t kill Yaakov, he WAS able to hurt him. In the end, Yaakov was able to pin his opponent and was finally declared the victor. Dawn breaks, and as if on cue, the angel conveniently recalls that he has an important appointment. He pleads with Yaakov to let him go. However, before releasing his rival, Yaakov says something profound.
וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֵנִי כִּי עָלָה הַשָּׁחַר וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אֲשַׁלֵּחֲךָ כִּי אִם בֵּרַכְתָּנִי
Yaakov said to the angel, “I won’t let you go until you bless me,” and by doing so we find an amazing concept – something from which I think we can all learn a very valuable life lesson. Through this incredible episode, we are unequivocally being shown that events that are the most painful are also those that, in retrospect, allow us to grow the most. With these words, Yaakov Avinu was informing us that within every crisis lies the potential of unbelievable blessing.
It is crisis, explained the late Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks zt’l, which forces us to make difficult but necessary decisions. It plunges us from the surface to the depths, where we discover strengths we previously never knew we had and a clarity of purpose we formerly lacked. One must therefore say to every challenge, “I won’t let you go until you bless me!”
There’s no question – struggle isn’t easy. Although Yaakov Avinu was not defeated, he walked away “limping.” Battles definitely leave scars. Yet we must train ourselves to remember that it is precisely in those moments that Hashem is with us; we are never alone, of this we can be sure. Because the truth is, if we refuse to let go of Him, then He refuses to let go of us, giving us the strength to survive and emerge stronger, wiser… and blessed.
It was the summer of 2008 when A Poshiter Yid named Lipa Schmeltzer delivered a poignant message to anyone willing to listen. Carry On – composed by Moshe Lax with lyrics penned by Abie Rotenberg’s daughter Mrs. Bella Levitan – assures us that ‘we all have moments, struggles day to day – and that it just seems easier to throw it all away. But we must remember, we can make the climb – a gift of courage, from the dawn of time.’
No matter where we find ourselves in life, it is essential to know that we have it in us to overcome anything thrown our way. All it takes is to look Upward for His help, and to look inward – to search deep inside ourselves – to find that Divine strength we never knew we had. In Parshas Vayishlach, Yaakov Avinu shows us exactly how to deal with challenges: wrestle with it, refuse to let it go until it blesses you – until you emerge stronger, better and wiser than before. Remember, we’re called Bnei Yisroel for a reason.
Wishing everyone an empowering Shabbos!