Raise your hand if you know someone with a problem he or she is not dealing with and who is hoping the problem will just go away by itself. How much would you be willing to wager that the problem actually will go away by itself? It reminds me of the young child playing peak-a-boo that covers its own eyes and says, “You can’t see me now.”
Do you know anyone with family members who are not speaking with each other? Do you know anyone with family members they feel they have been hurt by or have a problem with so they avoid the problem or situation by not attending a gathering where confrontation would be difficult to avoid or excluding certain people that some get along with, but others may not?
You and everyone around you know that ultimately the problem must be dealt with (or should be). It cannot be ignored forever. Few problems, left unresolved, actually get better over time. Like festering sores, unresolved family problems become toxic, gangrenous and ultimately deadly, if not physically, then spiritually for the organic family dynamic.
How heroic is the person who is able to deal with a problem by addressing it head on. Is that heroism or is that merely wisdom, thoughtfulness and maturity?
This was precisely the situation confronting our forefather Jacob in this week’s Parasha. He was leaving the land of his father-in-law Lavan and returning to his birthplace. Recall that Jacob had originally left his home in fear that his brother Eisav threatened to kill him over the birthright and the stolen blessing. Was Eisav still out to get him? Jacob was going to need to deal with this at some point, but how? When?
Eisav’s land stood directly between Lavanland and the Homeland. Jacob could have taken the long way around Eisavland and try to sneak by.
No. Jacob determined to take his entourage directly through the lands of his brother Eisav. Jacob knew that he must confront Eisav eventually. He decided that it would be best to handle that situation on his own terms; terms that he could plan and develop a strategy around. Rather than “kicking the can down the road,” hoping the problem will just go away by itself or engaging in other forms of magical thinking, Jacob’s mature determination serves as a role model for all time.
I discussed Jacob’s very interesting strategy in a past e-drash and they are lessons in and of themselves. The point here is that Jacob chose to deal with people and problems directly and not ignore them. He had faith that, with God’s help, all would work out for the best, but he also took his own proactive measures. Jacob’s decision was ultimately the correct one and Jacob and Eisav were able to move on.
Once again, as our Sages tell us: “Ma’asei Avot, siman l’banim,” the experiences of our forefathers are meant as lessons for future generations.
Jacob’s confrontation was truly a difficult one. His determination to move forward and to overcome the known challenges and obstacles that he played a role in creating is what makes him worthy of being our Patriarch. His willingness to engage in that struggle for the sake of making peace is what results in his becoming Yisrael. His wisdom, thoughtfulness and maturity should be our goal.
This Shabbat we are privileged to learn with Rabbi Herbert Yoskowitz who will lead us headlong into an understanding of this remarkable Patriarch of ours. Rabbi Yoskowitz states, “With the help of Rashi and Rabbi Benno Jacob’s commentaries, we will study: 1) Jacob’s life as symbolized by his wrestling match with (a) a man according to the Torah, (b) an angel according to Hosea, (c) Samael, guardian angel of Esau according to the Midrash and (d) God according to Jacob and 2) Jacob’s name change to Israel. Both of these are essential to understand what it means to be a Jew….or as Professor Aviva Zornberg calls it “The Quest for Wholeness.”
9:45 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.
I hope to see you there.
P.S. Please feel free to share this e-drash with your friends or anyone you think might enjoy it. You can see this e-drash and any of my past e-drashot on my WordPress blog. I really enjoy your feedback and learning from you, so please share.