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December 13, 2019
15 Kislev 5780

Parashat Vayishlach
Genesis 32:4 - 36:43

Dear Friends,

It is good to begin my weekly thoughts and reflections with a prayer written from the heart. It has been a very difficult week in the world, in both word and deed. I write in the wake of having gone to two conferences, one on anti-Semitism and the other on how to combat it as teachers, particularly on how to recognize trauma and respond appropriately.

This week’s Torah portion continues Jacob’s saga as he leaves his father-in-law’s home. Jacob has never been my favorite patriarch, given all those women in his life, all those children, all that trickery, and all that self-deception. He has never been someone I aspired to be. However, he is the one to carry the promise of a deep connection with the Divine, as was made manifest in his dream last week.

How is Jacob an exemplar for us through all of these travails? We cannot always be wrestling with unknown beings (possibly angels) trying to bring our best selves to the fore. We cannot always be making peace with those with whom we have fought and still don’t fully trust.

Sometimes, we are simply too weary to do very much at all. It has all been too much; continuing forward, particularly after the death of a beloved wife, is simply more than Jacob can bear.

But Jacob does go forward. He keeps living. He keeps making mistakes, but he does not stop. His story continues, and he is able to travel down to Egypt to reunite with his favorite child.

Maybe that is what this week’s Torah portion is here to teach us after this difficult week. Even when our best selves are not available, we are frightened, and hope is difficult to come by, we do not stop. In spite of everything, Jacob never seems to give up. As I sit here writing this, I must believe that we can never give up. And, unlike Jacob, we have one another.

In these dark days -- these short days with long nights -- you are each the light in the darkness. As we mourn those killed in Jersey City, we must continue to go forward, with our eyes open but with our hearts open as well.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781