Flotilla Sneak Attack Turns Jacob into Israel

The Torah is not just a book to read; it is a book to live by, In that spirit, I want to reflect on how the story of Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel can help us survive this recent ‘International Hypocrisy Flotilla Crisis’ when we , like our ancestor, sometimes feel ourselves alone, afraid and in distress.

At such times, it helps to retrace the steps of our ancestors when they faced similar situations.

The Background please: Jacob is preparing for his encounter with Esau the next day. He ferries  his family across the stream, but "Jacob was left alone" There, "a man wrestled with him until dawn." Jacob is injured in the struggle, but is undefeated. At daybreak, Jacob's combatant pleads with him to let him go. Jacob says: "I will not let you until you bless me." The man accedes and confers upon him the name Israel.

Surprise Attack

And Jacob was left alone: The wrestling match with the stranger takes place after the most elaborately conceived and executed preparations for any event in Genesis. Jacob had prepared himself for three things: diplomacy, war and prayer. He sent huge gifts of cattle to appease Esau’s anger. He divided his camp in two so that even if one were destroyed the other might survive. He prayed to G‑d. 

He thought he covered every eventuality, adopted every strategy, and anticipated every outcome – except the one that actually happened, the unexpected appearance of an adversary who fought with him.

Crises happen, and there is no way we can make ourselves immune to them, we live toward an unknown, unknowable future. This where faith steps in. Faith is not with certainty: it is the courage to live with uncertainty. 

Indeed that is why we need faith, because life is uncertain. Even in the twenty-first century when we know so much about the universe, there is one thing we do not know and never will: what tomorrow will bring. Crisis can challenge us at the deepest level of the self, threatening our self-confidence and self-respect. Today this where we need to concentrate our effort and focus our energies. We are here because someone, the One, the Almighty wanted us to be. He loves us and understands us.

The Crisis is Valid

Jacob limped after the fight, Crisis is real; the suffering to which it gives rise can cut deep. But they are honorable scars. They tell that you fought and won.

"I will not let you until you bless me." The man accedes and confers upon him the name Israel. These words of Jacob to the angel lie at the very core of surviving crisis. 

Each of us knows from personal experience that events that seemed disappointing, painful, even humiliating at the time, can be the most important in our lives. Through them we learned how to try harder next time; or they taught us a truth about ourselves; or they shifted our life into a new and more fruitful direction. We learn, not from our successes but from our failures. We mature and grow strong.   

Jacob Yesterday, Israel Today

Jacob’s struggle is our struggle today. In nearly 4000 years of galut we have wrestled with the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany and Islamic terror. These and many others did their worst to destroy us, yet we have prevailed.

It is also a struggle with the soul of galut, with its Divine essence and purpose. Yes, it is true that these struggles have roused the highest and deepest potentials of the Jewish soul. Yes, it is true that galut has unearthed reserves of faith and wisdom such as would never have been actualized by a tranquil people enjoying a tranquil existence. Yes, it is true that we are fulfilling the cosmic plan in retrieving the Sparks of Holiness buried in the darkest reaches of G‑d's creation.

But how much longer must we linger surely You Hashem, the essence of Kindness and Goodness, could have devised a way to achieve all this without all the evil and pain!

It is a long and difficult struggle till dawn. But in the end we triumph for this is the essence of Israel.

The End Results

What actually happened the next day, when Jacob finally came face to face with Esau? Instead of attacking him, Esau ran to meet him and embraced him. There was no anger, no violence, no lingering trace of resentment. Everything Jacob feared, failed to happen.

Bayomim HoHeim Bizman Hazeh!! What happened then will happen today with the coming of Moshiach!!