Reflections from Rabbi René – Struggling with God

“Surely God is in this place”

Dreams in the Bible were understood as open channels between us and the Divine world. They were considered as revelation, instruction, or sometime warning. When Jacob dreams of a ladder that stands on the earth and reaches out to Heavens, he realizes that there is more to see than what our eyes and senses allow. “Surely God is in this place, and I didn’t know it!”.

"Jacob's Ladder" by fdecomite is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Jacob’s Ladder” by fdecomite is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Israel, the one who struggles with God

In this week’s parasha, we meet Jacob alone at night, as he is about to meet his brother Esau, whom he cheated by stealing his birthright many moons ago. And it is precisely in that night that he faces a being, with whom he wrestles until the morning. At dawn, none of them is defeated, but Jacob is hurt. From now on, he will limp, wounded in the hip. And he receives a new name, Israel, the one who struggles with El – God -, and is not defeated.

That name will define our nature as Jews. We struggle, we fight, we love to disagree and we take nothing for granted. As a people, we are also named in Torah the stiffed-neck people, angering greatly Moses and God by not complying to orders, but in the end, once we are convinced by a sound argument, we become and remain loyal.

Change is a transformative process

During his combat with this being, later identified in the Bible as an angel of God, Jacob is wounded. That is one of the most essential laws of the universe. Change is a transformative process. We need to abandon something of us to gain something new. Sometimes we are wounded, when a change is important, but we can carry on with our lives, even if we limp.

Something has changed this past year. We have left behind a certain idea of our destiny, we have lost loved ones, some of us have been ill, and the world will never be the same. Normality doesn’t exist. It is just short term routine. But we have each other, and that’s what matters to shape and face the new world ahead.