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Prevailing at Dawn

At the start of last week’s sedra VaYeitzei Jacob flees for his life after tricking his brother Esau out of his birthright. At sunset he finds himself alone and frightened in the middle of nowhere, only to witness a heavenly ladder with angels ascending and descending its rungs. ‘God was in this place and I, I did not know!’ exclaims the fugitive as he awakens in the morning. Twenty years later Jacob flees once more, this time journeying with the four wives he has married, the 12 children he has fathered and the great wealth in flocks he has amassed.

At the start of this week’s sedra Vayishlach Jacob finds himself alone once more on the night before he faces an uncertain reunion with his brother Esau. On one side of the river Jabok, in the dark of night, his family and possessions. On the other side, an encounter with an unknown stranger with whom Jacob wrestles until break of day. Near sunrise, Jacob is wounded in the thigh. He pleads for a blessing, and to know the stranger’s name. Instead he himself receives a new name: Yisrael, the one who wrestles with God. Jacob’s journey spanning two decades, beginning at sunset and ending at sunrise, represents perhaps a ‘dark night of the soul’. He emerges to become the father of the Jewish People.

It might feel as though we ourselves have experienced some kind of ‘dark night of the soul’ since the first lockdown in March. Whatever our personal circumstances, we have all faced challenges during the Covid pandemic, wrestling with the unknown, wounded in a variety of ways by restrictions, isolation and separation, by loss and by fear. And yet, like our ancestor Jacob, we have prevailed.

This week we received news of the rolling-out of the first of the Covid vaccines, heralding a new dawn for us all. It will be some time before life returns to ‘normal’, but now hope is real and tangible. We must just have patience for a while longer, continue to follow Covid-safe behaviours, and ensure that we don’t put our loved ones and society as a whole at risk when immunity for all is achievable  and within reach.

Stay Safe and Be Well.

Wishing You All a Sweet and Peaceful Shabbes,

Rabbi Lisa