“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle….and have found their way out of those depths.” -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Those thoughts remind me of Jacob of the Torah and what we learn about him this Shabbat. The Torah relates that he wrestles with an unnamed, mysterious man who appears to be much stronger and more powerful than Jacob. All night long the struggle continues, with Jacob refusing to let go until his adversary will grant him a blessing. Jacob does prevail, and so is his named changed from Jacob, “the supplanter,” to Israel, “the one who prevails with God.”
I think that this episode speaks to our personal challenges and struggles. Whatever those personal challenges may be, Jacob’s experience calls out to us: a hold on, don’t give up” no matter what the circumstances we face.
And I think there is another message here; one that speaks to the reality of Jewish history. A dream
that foretells the struggles that we would know in our quest to survive in this world against our various adversaries. Our struggle against the Hamans and the Hitlers of history. Our Jewish struggle to survive in lands where the people would turn against us, and where we would have to physically and spiritually struggle to survive.
At the end of his encounter with that “mysterious man,” Jacob appealed to God, not that God keep him from all pain or harm; but that God be with him in his quest to become a worthy patriarch.
So for us, the same prayer: that we be granted the courage and the vision to persist in our personal quests, and that God be with us in our efforts.