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Vayishlach – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Now a grown man with a large family and many possessions Jacob faces not just a physical crisis ahead but also a “midlife crisis” which will cause him to evaluate who he really is.

When he hears than Esau is approaching with a large force of men

Jacob became very frightened and was distressed

The physical threat he imagined was real and frightening for himself and his family. The distress was contemplating fighting and possibly killing his own brother, whom he knew he had wronged. He had managed to negotiate with Laban who had wronged him but now there was a wholly different moral choice.

When he encounters an angel, he wrestles with him and ends up with not just a change of name, (he is to be called Israel), but a dislocated hip. This encounter will cause us to be “the children of Israel” rather than the “children of Jacob”.

We read

Therefore, the children of Israel may not eat the displaced tendon, which is on the socket of the hip, until this day, for he touched the socket of Jacob's hip, in the hip sinew.

This became enshrined as a tenet of Kashrut which stays with us to this day. When Jews arrived in China around 1000CE we became known as

Tiaojiaojin (the religion that removes the tendon”)

Jacob will go on to reconcile with Esau but when his daughter Dinah is abducted by Shechem he stays silent. It is left to his sons Simeon and Levi, to avenge her. He will lose Rachel when she gives birth to Benjamin, find that his mother Rebecca has died before he returns, and he will bury his father Isaac.

Jacob encountered angels and comes to acknowledge the presence of God. At the very moment he feels most alone he discovers that he is not alone; God is still with him. When, initially, Jacob is asked for his name at Peniel he receives a blessing. Later

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

For all of us life is full of twists and turns but we are not alone. Sometimes we need others to remind us of our blessings and to count them.

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