This week’s music: “Not Without You” Yehudah Katz
“Vayivater Yaakov l’vado, va’ye’avek ish emo, ad allot hashachar” and Yaakov is left alone and a man struggles with him until the sunrise (Bereshit 32.25). What is this struggle all about? The Slonimer Rebbe quotes Bereshit Rabah which writes that this man was the “officer” of Esav. He wanted to make Yaakov fall down from the heights of his spirituality, as this was the only way he had any chance to take Yaakov down. There was no way he could get Yaakov to “eat from forbidden fruit,” so he needed to play to a potential “doubt” in his spiritual side. I once heard from Rav Agassi that Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that Yaakov was in a bit of a state of doubt. The angels who he sent to check out Esav’s whereabouts returned to say that indeed he is near and he has 400 men with him. ”Vayira Yaakov, vayetzer lo…” and Yaakov is in awe and he is afraid…(Bereshit 32.7-8). Rebbe Nachman explains that the words “Vayetzer lo,” can also mean “and he created.” Yaakov created his own fear. He had no reason to fear. He was on such a high level of “emunah,” belief in Hashem. Hashem was protecting him. They already had this covenant made in last week’s Parsha. Hashem promised He would watch over Yaakov on his journey (Bereshit 28.15). This Yaakov already knew. He knew it intellectually and it was deeply imprinted in his heart as well .However, he still had a shadow of doubt and was not totally secure in his personal full “emunah.” So he created a reason to fear.
We all have this inner struggle going on. How often, instead of reaffirming my positive side, do I succumb to the doubt and start to think that things aren’t going so well. It’s the classic question of perspective, is the cup half full or half empty? The Slonimer sees it as person who is extremely secure with his “emunah,” belief in Hashem, but if a wild vicious dog is coming towards him on the street, he suddenly freezes and question his ability to be protected. I have doubt, I lose my holy courage, I am convinced that I am “not on the level.”
This is what this man, the officer of Esav, was waiting for. How can he strike Yaakov on that level? However, Yaakov, holds on to his strength of soul and struggles with him until the sun rises. The darkness is gone and makes way for a great light. Then he has clarity. He sees clearly, says the Sloinmer, who it is that has created this whole amazing world that now appears front of his eyes.
It is all about, as Reb Shlomo might say, am I on fire for God? This is what gives me a great sense of protection and security. The Berditchver Rebbe teaches about this. How was Amalek able to attack us after we had seen such amazing miracles as the ten plagues, our escape from Mitzraim and the splitting of the Red Sea? It is simple written in the Torah. “Asher karcha baderech…v’lo yarey Elohim” as it happened on your way, or that you got cold on the way… and you were no longer in awe of God (Devarim 25.18).
I lose my holy confidence and allow the “other side” to come in and reinforce and convince myself that I really don’t have what it takes to reach higher spiritual plateaus and connect strongly to my creator.
Yaakov felt very alone. He was no longer with his children, the tribes of God. He stood alone and so suddenly he realizes how much we need each other. The Slonimer quotes his grandfather saying that when brothers are together they can defeat all negative forces. The “other side” can only prey on the individual. The Kalisker Rebbe adds that when we invest in our behavior to recognize and feel the pain of others, when we all ask for loving mercy for a friend in pain, then then that strength of love from many people brings a sweetening of judgement to others. When I have the support of a friend there is no room for doubt. Then “chas v’shalom,” God forbid if I don’t have this friendly support, I can get very lost in myself doubt and allow it to take me to serious levels of depression.
However, if I, with God’s help and the help of friends, can get rid of that doubt, the I can live securely and be filled with joy. “Ein simchah k’hatarat hasfeikut,” there is no joy like the removal of doubt (Talmud Tractate “Zevachim” 90.1).
May we all be blessed with the humble strength to connect with our friends, to help them and receive their help, to feel secure with our Creator and know that we are “mamash” “on the level.” May Hashem bless us to to be the vehicles for bringing true Peace to the world with “simchah” and love.