In the dark solitude of night Jacob wrestles with an unidentified man until dawn, but would not let him go, even after he appears to vanquish his opponent. Although the text says it was a man, the figure is mysterious and might have been an angel of God or possibly a demon from Jacob’s psyche.
This remarkable story speaks to how we might make something good come from the troublesome or even the tragic event; for Jacob would not let go until he received a blessing. Instead of fleeing, as Jacob has in the past, Jacob only grapples with it. Acknowledging this event is now a part of him, Jacob holds on. Jacob emerges from the scuffle physically injured, forever changed. But he still insists that something good comes of the encounter a blessing.
So many of us confront tragedy in our lives. And despite the pain and the suffering tragedy causes, people often turn it in order to make something good as a result. For example, the founders of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, were able to take the unspeakable horror of losing their children and create a crusade to save the children of others. Veronique Pozner, recently named as one of the Forward 50, lost her 6-year-old son Noah in Newtown and transformed her personal tragedy and grief into a rallying cry for gun control legislation in Connecticut.
We are forever changed as a result of the harsh tests in our lives. For Jacob, his hip was damaged and his name changed to always reflect that the event had irrevocably altered him. Nothing will bring the lost children back to their mothers. Noah will never return to Veronique, but she celebrates his brief life, by working to create a better world. May we all find the strength to do so.
~Thoughts on Vayishlach