Wrestling With The Angels, Wrestling With Ourselves

This week’s Torah reading is Vayishlach, and contains the famous story of Jacob wrestling with the angel before his meeting with his brother Esau after 20 years.

“And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him.”
Genesis 32:25-25.

Rabbi David Kimchi, also know by the acronym “Radak,” was a medieval rabbi, biblical commentator, philosopher, and grammarian. In commenting on verse 25, he writes, “God had sent this angel to Jacob to strengthen his courage, not to fear [his brother] Esau. If Jacob could prevail over an angel, surely he had no reason to be afraid of an encounter with someone like Esau! The fact that the struggle lasted until daybreak was an allusion to Jacob that after a period of night, i.e. problems, adversity, there would come a period of light, peace and prosperity coupled with security.”

Our tradition teaches that the Kabbalat Shabbat service begins with a series of 6 Psalms, corresponding to the 6 days of the work week. As we prepare to welcome Shabbat with Lecha Dodi, as we recite each Psalm, we think about the day, what was good, and we can do to repair anything that might have not gone as we would have liked. In this way, we engage in tikkun ha nefesh, repairing the soul, so that it is complete going into Shabbat.

Whether you attend Friday night services, watch a live stream from a synagogue, or do something else, I invite you to think about what you’ve wrestled with this past week, and imagine overcoming those adversaries, leading you into a peaceful Shabbat. Here’s a nice pdf from TBZ Brookline that has the Psalms: http://www.tbzbrookline.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/TBZ_FridayNight_Siddur.pdf.

Wishing you a Shabbat full of light and love.

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