Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach Looking Forward

Dear Friends,

We are all looking forward to something good….

I am looking forward to the joy of Chanukah and to lighting candles each of the 8 nights of Chanukah (beginning on Thursday evening, December 10th).

I am looking forward to many other things as well, such as:

Seeing you at services this evening;

Sharing many simchas;

Getting to some kind of “new normal” after enough of us have access to COVID vaccines;

and on and on….

What are you looking forward to? Shabbat is a good time to contemplate this question.

Interestingly, in this week’s parsha, Vayishlach, Jacob is on the verge of moving forward to fulfill his dreams when he has second thoughts. Jacob knew that it was time for a change. He was ready to come back home to the Land of Israel. He prepared himself and his family for the journey. He was looking forward to this new stage in his life.

But, according to the midrash, Jacob stayed back after he sent his family across the river because, in his packing for the journey home, he forgot some small items in Laban’s home. Jacob stayed back because he wanted to go back to retrieve those items before he crossed the river and joined his family.

How many times do we suddenly remember some small item we didn’t do yet, just as we are ready to move forward? How many times do we recall some small task we neglected, some small thing we left behind, some insignificant detail we have not addressed yet….and instead of moving forward, we step back?

How many times do we struggle to take a step forward, even when we are moving toward something we have been joyfully anticipating for a long time?

That is the sense I have of Jacob’s struggle with the unknown man just before he crossed the river to face the future he had envisioned for himself and for his family. Jacob’s struggle is emblematic of our struggles with ourselves, as we strive to move forward into new situations.

We are all looking forward to good things…. Jacob came out of his struggle with a limp. Nevertheless, he forged ahead, with a new name, with a new blessing, and with renewed purpose.

May we be blessed, as Jacob was blessed, to move forward successfully and to be agents of greater blessing in the world.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror