Some years ago I wrote an article on this week’s Torah Portion [Vayishlach: Genesis 32:4-36:43], around the issue of being distressed by the loss of life – see https://globaltruthinternational.com/2012/11/30/distressed-by-the-tragedy-of-loss-of-life/
But I think this Torah Portion has a much more powerful message to share, and it’s that Jacob is really a great role-model for those going through struggles in the lives, which of course is all of us at some time!
And why is Jacob such a great role model in this regard?
I would suggest for two main reasons. Firstly, he epitomises fallibility and secondly, I think he epitomises someone with a diminished sense of self-worth.
As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks states Jacob was “…The man who, more than any other, epitomises fallibility is Jacob…. His life was a series of struggles. Nothing came easily to him…
There are saintly people for whom spirituality comes as easily as did music to Mozart. But God does not reach out only to saints. He reaches out to all of us. That is why He gave us Abraham for those who love, Isaac for those who fear, and Jacob/Israel for those who struggle.
Hence this week’s life-changing idea: if you find yourself struggling with faith, you are in the company of Jacob-who-became-Israel …“ and the father of the 12 Tribes.
So while his life was a life of struggle, both with man; with his brother and his family; but also with God Himself, ultimately he saw great reward and redemption in that all his children stayed within the faith.
Sacks: “’According to the pain is the reward’ – Mishnah, Avot 5:23. That is Jacob.”
So while Jacob struggled he was eventually triumphant. This should encourage all who struggle – don’t give up, there is light at the end of the tunnel; it will be worth it; the pain will one day pass; the Olam HaBah (the Kingdom of God) will one day appear!
And how does a low sense of worthiness come into it?
I think that Jacob may well have had some sense of unworthiness, after-all he really knew that he was the 2nd born and that he had stolen the birthright of his older brother Esau. Not only did he pay a heavy price for this deception, his mother did as well, and surely this would have impacted him.
How does this impact and exacerbate the life of struggle?
I discuss this in my blog post ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ which highlights the work of the social researcher, Brene Brown.
Her argument is that those who don’t feel worthy are more likely to fall for addictions; to feel dis-connected (which is not at all the same thing as enjoying solitude), to struggle to find joy and happiness. Someone who feels worthy is more easily able to be vulnerable, and in turn such people are more easily able to ‘hear’ the lessons that God gives us every day and grow from them.
A lack of a sense of worthiness in turn leads to placing barriers and walls which not only lead to disconnection but inhibit any openness to growth and learning.
Perhaps Jacob also struggled in this way, and yet he persevered and broke through. You can too!