For the week ending 10 December 2011 / 13 Kislev 5772

Parshat Vayishlach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Returning home, Yaakov sends angelic messengers to appease his brother Eisav. The messengers return, telling Yaakov that Eisav is approaching with an army of 400. Yaakov takes the strategic precautions of dividing the camps, praying for assistance, and sending tribute to mollify Eisav. That night, Yaakov is left alone and wrestles with the Angel of Eisav. Yaakov emerges victorious but is left with an injured sinew in his thigh (which is the reason that it is forbidden to eat the sciatic nerve of a kosher animal). The angel tells him that his name in the future will be Yisrael, signifying that he has prevailed against man (Lavan) and the supernatural (the angel). Yaakov and Eisav meet and are reconciled, but Yaakov, still fearful of his brother, rejects Eisavs offer that they should dwell together. Shechem, a Caananite prince, abducts and violates Dina, Yaakovs daughter. In return for Dinas hand in marriage, the prince and his father suggest that Yaakov and his family intermarry and enjoy the fruits of Caananite prosperity. Yaakovs sons trick Shechem and his father by feigning agreement; however, they stipulate that all the males of the city must undergo brit mila. Shimon and Levi, two of Dinas brothers, enter the town and execute all the males who were weakened by the circumcision. This action is justified by the citys tacit complicity in the abduction of their sister. G-d commands Yaakov to go to Beit-El and build an altar. His mother Rivkas nurse, Devorah, dies and is buried below Beit-El. G-d appears again to Yaakov, blesses him and changes his name to Yisrael. While traveling, Rachel goes into labor and gives birth to Binyamin, the twelfth of the tribes of Israel. She dies in childbirth and is buried on the Beit Lechem Road. Yaakov builds a monument to her. Yitzchak passes away at the age of 180 and is buried by his sons. The Parsha concludes by listing Eisavs descendants.


Two Camps

“I have been diminished by all the kindness and by all the truth that You have done; ...and now I have become two camps.” (32:11)

We live in a world where depression has become as common as table salt.

Being depressed is like living in two worlds that never coincide. Worlds that have no common agenda, no point of contact.

It seems that one can never take the wisdom of happiness into the despair of depression.

It's like visiting time at the State Penitentiary, trying to communicate with your wife through a block of glass four inches thick.

Like two castaways on two different islands waving signal flags at each other and the flags having two different meanings.

Like two people who speak different languages trying to get to know each using two dictionaries whose words are translated completely differently.

Like two camps.

A camp of light and a camp of darkness.

"…and now I have become two camps."

Man is a relative animal. We cannot grasp anything in absolute terms. Our whole frame of reference is relative. We only understand what light is because every night it gets dark. If the sun always shone, not only would we have no word for dark, but we would also have no world for light. Our perception of the world is based on this principle.

There will always be a camp of darkness in our lives. A time when we inhabit the midst of difficulty and trial.

When we dwell in that camp of darkness we must remember that the days and nights of our emotions are as connected as day and night itself.

That however black and disconnected we feel, we must remember that the darkest hour is just before dawn.

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