Vayishlach – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Unusually, the Sedra this week does not start at the beginning of a chapter but several verses later.

Now Jacob sent messengers ahead of him

For Jacob there is much unfinished business, not just with Esau but also with himself. The question arises; who was Jacob and how should we see him? Jacob’s name was changed twice into the name “Israel”. The first time was after Jacob wrestled with the “man” when he crossed the Jabbok. The second time was when God Himself changed Jacob’s name after he had built an altar at Beth El.


At the very outset, when he fled his father’s house in Haran, Jacob dreams of something wonderful – Jacob’s ladder. His response to the dream is surprising; he conditions his posture towards God on the fulfilment of a vow.

Jacob uttered a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear; And if I return in peace to my father's house, and the Lord will be my God;

After wrestling with the man at the ford of Jabbock he still wants to set out conditions:

(Jacob) said, "I will not let you go unless you have blessed me

Jacob will go on to come to terms with Esau and to settle in Succoth, buying land in Shechem. (This will be where Joseph will eventually be buried). He will see his daughter Dinah abducted and avenged by his sons. He will finally meet with God and this time will not try to negotiate conditions.

God appeared again to Jacob when he came from Padan aram, and He blessed him

There comes a time when we need to choose to recognise who we are. We can continue to have our lives being defined by our past or to move on and count our blessings.

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