Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Subconscious Wrestling Match - Friday Kavvanah, 12/9/11

Jacob's fourth angelic encounter occurs in Parashat Vayishlah, completing his ascent into adulthood and assumption of his role as patriarch.  (The first occurred after he had fled from his brother Esau, just after obtaining the blessing from his father Isaac.)

When he wrestles with the "man" (or perhaps elohim, a "divine being," as the Torah later refers to him) in Genesis 32, the struggle seems to take place in both the physical and metaphysical context: on one hand, Jacob appears to be literally wrestling with a stranger; on the other, he is also locked in battle with himself.  Given that he is alone at the time, it suggests the possibility that this is a dream, like the encounter in Genesis 28.  But this episode plays out as much in the conscious as the subconscious.

This is Jacob's liminal moment: he is facing his past and future, preparing to reunite with his brother Esau and accept his destiny.  The angel supplies him with his new name, Israel ("he who strives with God"), signifying his transition.  Jacob struggles as much with God as with himself.

And so too is this the point of transition for us, the descendants of Jacob.  We are Yisrael, the ones that engage with God, and in doing so to this day, we struggle as much with ourselves.

Rabbi Seth Adelson

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