Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vayishlach - 5776

My friends,

In this week's Parasha Jacob is returning to Canaan and he must confront his brother Esau, whom he fears for what he did to him twenty some years ago. He sends messengers to let Esau know that he is returning to Canaan. He hopes to find out from these messengers how Esau feels about him. Has he forgiven him or is he still angry?

The messengers return and inform him that Esau is coming to meet him, and that there are four hundred men with him. Jacob realizes that this huge group coming to meet him can only mean one thing - that Esau wants to fight him.

This is a special weekend, when America celebrates Thanksgiving. I believe that our Parasha this week has much to say about this holiday. When Jacob finds out about the danger he is facing, he turns to G-d in prayer and asks for G-d's help. It is interesting how he prefaces his prayer. He says:

"I am unworthy of all the kindness that you have steadfastly shown your servant; with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan (river) and now I have become two camps." (Genesis 32:11)

Jacob is grateful to G-d for all that has taken place in the last twenty years. He had nothing when he left Canaan, except for the staff in his hand. Now he is returning as a very wealthy men, with a large family and with huge herds of animals and servants. He expresses gratitude to God for his good fortune.

How fitting it is that that is exactly what this weekend is all about. The entire country sets this day, for each family to join with our family and friends, surrounded by our dear ones, to enjoy a bountiful dinner, to count our blessings and to thank God for what we have. That's what Jacob recognized and was grateful to G-d for all his blessings.

But at the same time. Jacob was worried of what Esau might do to him. Would he destroy everything that he has built?

Following a night of wrestling with an unknown being, Jacob prevails and his name is changed from Jacob to Israel. Instead of being Yaakov from the word Akev which means the 'heel' for sneaking up on his brother, his name is now changed to Israel, which could be read as ישר אל - straight with G-d, or שר אל - Prince of G-d.

Immediately after this encounter we are told ויזרח לו השמש - the sun rose upon him. Jacob could see the light, he was energized, he was no longer afraid.

As you celebrate with your family and friends, even in this world of dark clouds, count your blessings and be happy. G-d will protect us from all these horrible people who want to do us harm. The sun will rise for us, goodness will prevail. That's what this Parasha is all about.

America will prevail! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram