Telephone Torah Study: Jacob Wrestles with God
In this week’s Telephone Torah Study (Thursday 4-5pm) we’ll study Jacob wrestling with God, the Rape of Dinah and Jacob’s reunion with Esau in Vayishlach (32:4-36:43). Below is content that helps you prepare for this study. To join in on the conference call, please dial 702-851-4044, when prompted punch in 2, then our pass code 22252#.
‘Comforting Dina: The rape of Dina…and other horrible, contemporary acts of violence’ by Rabbi Laura Geller (Reprinted from The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, edited by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L.)
After twenty years, Jacob is coming home. Anticipating that the reunion with the brother he cheated all those years ago will be disastrous, he sends messengers laden with presents ahead to his brother.
But just to be on the safe side, he divides his camp in order to minimize the losses should he come under attack. The story continues: “That same night, he got up, took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children, and crossed at a ford of the Jabbok [river]. … Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him” (32:23-25). The nocturnal wrestler wounds and blesses him and gives him a new name–our name: Yisrael, one who wrestles with God. Jacob’s wrestling with God is a powerful image and legacy. We never know with whom Jacob is wrestling: is it himself, his conscience, his brother, God, or all of these parts of himself and of his life? Jacob names the place “Peniel,” meaning “Face of God,” for, as he states, “I have seen God face-to-face” (32:31). Somehow, alone, separated from his “two wives” and his “eleven children,” Jacob discovers the face of God in his adversary–and Jacob is blessed.
Selected Verses of the Week
1. “No more shall you be called Jacob,” said the other, “for you have struggled with God and with human beings, and you have prevailed.”(Gen. 32:29)
2. Jacob said [to Esau], “No, please, if I have truly found favor in your sight, take the offering from my hand; for to see your face is like seeing the face of God; and you have [already] shown me favor.” (Gen. 33:10)
3. [One day] Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the locality. (Gen.34:1)