וַיִּירָ֧א יַעֲקֹ֛ב מְאֹ֖ד וַיֵּ֣צֶר ל֑וֹ וַיַּ֜חַץ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם אֲשֶׁר־אִתּ֗וֹ וְאֶת־הַצֹּ֧אן וְאֶת־הַבָּקָ֛ר וְהַגְּמַלִּ֖ים לִשְׁנֵ֥י מַחֲנֽוֹת׃
Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps,
קָטֹ֜נְתִּי מִכֹּ֤ל הַחֲסָדִים֙ וּמִכׇּל־הָ֣אֱמֶ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשִׂ֖יתָ אֶת־עַבְדֶּ֑ךָ כִּ֣י בְמַקְלִ֗י עָבַ֙רְתִּי֙ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֣ן הַזֶּ֔ה וְעַתָּ֥ה הָיִ֖יתִי לִשְׁנֵ֥י מַחֲנֽוֹת׃
I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
וַיִּוָּתֵ֥ר יַעֲקֹ֖ב לְבַדּ֑וֹ וַיֵּאָבֵ֥ק אִישׁ֙ עִמּ֔וֹ עַ֖ד עֲל֥וֹת הַשָּֽׁחַר׃
Jacob was left alone. And a figure wrestled with him until the break of dawn.
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לֹ֤א יַעֲקֹב֙ יֵאָמֵ֥ר עוֹד֙ שִׁמְךָ֔ כִּ֖י אִם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כִּֽי־שָׂרִ֧יתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים וְעִם־אֲנָשִׁ֖ים וַתּוּכָֽל׃
Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”
In this weeks Sedra, Yaakov is facing his a long awaited confrontation with Esav, his brother who has sworn to kill him. He is full with fear anxiety and his response is too divide his fledgling family into two groups. When he subsequently prays to God for help in his upcoming confrontation, he finished by acknowledging that acting in fear, he has already weakened his position by dividing into two camps .
Yaakov is further splintered from his group and finds himself alone when he is confronted by the enemy, a man, who he battles through the night. Unable to best Yaakov, the adversary tells him that he will henceforth be known not as Yaakov, but as Yisrael (one who fights divine battles, but always prevails.)
The Nation of Israel finds itself again and again on the brink of existential threat when they have splintered and divided into separate groups. We see this first when the Davidic Kingdom is divided into Israel in the North and Judah in the south. This leads to the destruction of the first Temple and the exile of the majority of Israel .
Chazal tell us that the second temple wasn’t truly destroyed by the Roman enemy. They were merely “grounding already ground flour” (I.e. finishing off the remnant of Israel left over after the brutal civil wars that the sectarian Jewish factions had fought amongst themselves).
Sadly , this would hardly be the last time that we found ourselves divided and on the brink of losing our identity and national mission. As we say on Passover each year “an adversary rises up in each generation to destroy us”. Despite the terrible death and destruction we have faced, ironically, this eternal enemy is also the one who ends up uniting us.
Although this horrific war is far from over, we must take a moment to appreciate the unintended consequences that Hamas’s barbaric actions have achieved.
It is no exaggeration to say that on October 6th Israel was on the brink of a civil war. A Far right wing government was on the brink of dismantling the very nature of legal order and free elections. The wildly divergent world view of the Haredi and non religious was creating a social divide that seemed to be getting worse by the day. Hamas thought that their horrific actions would be the knockout blow for a hurt and divided Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth. The civil unrest over judicial reform was set aside. Miracle of miracles thousands of Haredi men enlisted in the army. With few exceptions, we set aside our differences.
A Haredi friend of mine raised thousands of dollars from Jews (many of whom had never before given a penny to Israel). He purchased food, underwear and socks and drove to the northern border to deliver them to army units in desperate need of these supplies.
Bitter political enemies, who swore they would never serve in the same government, have done just, in order to form a united war council. The media figures, celebrities and politicians here in America have been another wonder. I have read countless articles telling of Jews who openly admitted their past errors regarding their lack of support towards Israel. In today’s hyper partisan political environment, this type of welcome contrition is both shocking and heartening.
It is a scary time to be a Jew anywhere in the world right now. Our enemies have found ally’s too, among the ignorant and uneducated. But the lesson that Yaakov learned has become our national heritage. We have a great destiny and purpose. We are at risk if we focus on our differences. As long as we stay united we will remain Am Yisrael, the Eternal Nation that can never be destroyed. My oldest joined the Army weeks before this war began. My daughters entire senior class is heading to Israel in a few weeks to volunteer in the war effort . We can all find ways to contribute. Hopefully we will remain united long after the energy is vanquished.