Weekly Manna – Parashat Vayishlach

“Yaakov was left alone.  And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.”   Bereishis 32:25

I have to ask the obvious questions:  was he alone or was there also a man there?  And who was this man?  Was this man that wrestled with Yaakov a human “man” or was this G-d?

“So Yaakov named the place Peniel, meaning, ‘I have seen a divine being face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’” Bereishis 32:31

Rashi tells us this was Esav’s angel that Yaacov was wrestling with. Other opinions see his struggle as being internal or with some other heavenly being, possibly even with G-d Himself. Rabbi Trugman (Orchard’s of Delight) tells us:

 “Ultimately, as the verse explicitly states, Yaakov fought not only with man, but with G-d.  Yaakov’s struggle with G-d represents human beings’ universal, existential struggle to understand who we really are, why we are here in this world, and how we should comprehend G-d’s providence, especially when things do not go the way we expect.  On a deeper level, this is the struggle to understand how to make His will our will.”

After this wrestling match, Yaakov was left wounded.  The Hebrew word translated “he wrenched” or “he struck” (32:26), is “teka” (tav, quf, ayin) and it contains two letters from Yaakov’s name (quf and ayin).  R’ Trugman explains that this reveals a deep psychological truth.  Whenever we do battle, whether with external or internal forces (or both), we do not walk away whole from the encounter.  We have been struck and even if we walk away victorious, there are wounds that we will inevitably take with us from the encounter.

Every battle has a price.  Our wounds can be in the form of hurt feelings, aroused suspicions that make trust difficult, guilt, sadness, or any number of emotional wounds.  The trick is to learn how not to let our wounded emotions destroy us.

I have known many people over the years who have been so wounded by life’s battles, that they cannot move forward in an emotionally healthy manner.   When a hurt is nursed, it can turn into a bitterness or depression that can be life-consuming, negatively affecting every aspect of a person’s life.  As difficult as it may be, we need to learn how to “lick our wounds” and continue living despite life’s disappointments.  We all have wounds.  Relationships can become damaged, dreams don’t always materialize, goals are sometimes not reached, the physical loss of those we love can leave us saddened……..the list goes on and on.  Whatever “angel” we find ourselves wrestling, the battle will leave a wound, and yet we can learn, from Yaakov’s example, how we can be made “perfect” or “whole” (shalom) once again.

After his encounter Yaakov walked differently.   He was wounded and walked with a limp.  Yet, when he arrives in Shechem we are told:

“Yaakov arrived shalom  in the city of Shechem which is in the land of Canaan – having come thus from Paddan-aram- he encamped before the city.”  (Bereishis 33:18)

It is significant that the Torah tells us that Yaacov was “shalom” (usually translated as perfect or whole) by the time he reached Shechem.  He had, with the help of G-d, overcome his wound.  We are told a few verses later that he “set up a mizbayach there and called it El-elohe-yisrael” (vs. 20). He did not allow his wound to consume him or prevent him from worshipping G-d.

Our wounds can and will consume us if we do not remain focused on G-d and realize that everything that we go through, every single battle, is orchestrated by Divine Providence for our own good.  It is from the wounds of life that our greatest potential can emerge; with convictions and strengths we didn’t realize we possessed.  Most advocates for a “cause” do so because they can relate.  They have “been there, done that”, and have overcome.  Realizing, however, how difficult the wounds are to heal, these brave survivors use their experiences to help others in similar situations to overcome.

No matter what wound life has handed you, you can be sure there are others who have undergone a similar situation.  And you can wallow in your wounds, floundering in your self-pity, shame and depression; or you can use the experience to arrive at your next destination “shalom” and prepared to help others to heal their wounds.

Life is difficult.  It was designed that way.  We are here for a short time, and yet, in such a short life we may have to endure many hardships and wounds.  It is all part of our tikkun.  We are here to rectify something.  And there is no need to be embarrassed! The fact that we are here is proof that we have something we need to rectify.  Pretending that you have it all together and do not have struggles in your life isn’t going to convince any intelligent person.  You are only kidding yourself!

There is no such thing as coincidence.  Our trials and battles are sign posts guiding us to our specific tikkun.  It is high time we realize this and quit behaving like victims.  There is nothing new under the sun.  No matter what your specific wounds are, they are not too heavy for G-d to lift.  Not only can you survive your wounds, you can actually find “shalom” in the aftermath.  And you are not alone!

“Happiness is the art of never holding in your mind the memory of any unpleasant thing that has passed.”  -Quote from unknown source

Yes, I realize this is all easier said than done.  But that’s the challenge we face.  I will share a personal experience to help this all hit home.  Many years ago, when I was a “tween”, I was sexual molested.  The experience had a profound, negative effect on me in ways I didn’t even realize for many, many years.  It was only after I came to the realization that I had allowed the man who had violated me to continue to wreak havoc in my life by not allowing the wound to heal, that I gave the whole thing over to G-d and found healing in forgiveness.  Since that time, I have had an unending stream of women enter my life who have undergone similar experiences and I have had the privilege of playing a small role in helping many of them to begin to find their own path to wholeness.  And they have strengthened me as well, in knowing that I too was not alone.  Sometimes it can be as simple as having someone to share our experiences with.  It can be very healing to “get it off our chest”, and yet, some things are very difficult to discuss.  There is comfort in knowing someone has been in your shoes and can really understand what you’ve experienced.

VICTIM MENTALITY VS. VICTOR MENTALITY

It is time to stop being a victim, and to stop wasting energy on reopening our wounds.  Let them heal, and redirect your energy in positive, Kingdom building activities.  Just as Yaakov was healed by Hashem in the end and emerged “perfect”, so can we.  As we continue reading Yaakov’s story, we will see that his life wasn’t all smooth sailing from this point on.  He endured many more battles and many more wounds.  But if he had gone to the next battle still wounded from the one before, can you see how much more difficult it would have been?

G-d has decided that in order for we human beings to have free choice and truly fulfill our destiny of being created in His image, we must be faced with seduction, temptation and trials.  The battles are real, but they are the means through which we can grow, and ascend spiritually.  There is no vessel as whole as a broken heart.  Like Yaakov we need to cry out for Hashem’s mercy to help us rectify our broken vessels and merit His protection, healing and love.

“My sacrifice to G-d is a broken spirit;

G-d you won’t spurn a broken, chastened heart.” (Tehillim 51:19)

Nobody is going to promise you that life is going to be easy.  If they do, they are lying to you.  Our wounds are part of the plan. Ladies, it is heavy on my heart to see healing and shalom in your lives.  If we can help each other to redirect the enormous amount energy it takes to remain bitter, angry and depressed into Kingdom purposes, we can and will make a positive impact in the world around us.   We will be a force no one will want to come against!  We all know the saying: “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned”.  Just imagine what kind of fury against the darkness present in our world we could muster up if we could be united and whole.  Let’s redirect our energies together as we strive to fulfill our potential!

“I dwell, and with the crushed and humble of spirit” (Yeshayahu 57:15)

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Rhonda

About the author
Rhonda has traveled from Utah to Toronto in what seemed to be a season of wanderlusting, which ended up being a relocation in the making. Using her life experiences, Rhonda teaches from the heart and is a perfect example of what it means to follow your heart and dedicate yourself to your spiritual community. Join Rhonda every week as she gives us our Weekly Manna on the Torah Portion for Women.