Vayishlach: The Prevalence of Love

We continue in Vayishlach with our line of thought from Vayeitzei regarding angels as the epitomes of Love, also as the ways and means to life and the material world, as well as to our relationship with the Creator: “Jacob sent angels ahead of him to his brother Esau, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom.” (Genesis 32:4) because it is through Love that we conceive and approach everything, as the material manifestation of God’s Love. This includes negative circumstances that challenge our determination to make goodness prevail in the midst of adversity. This also implies that we must take a practical approach to negative and potentially harming situations and people, as Jacob did when he met Esau twenty years after parting from each other at the verge of fatal confrontation. Esau, Seir and Edom are synonyms of the same emotional traits that make us act with a negative approach to material reality. These oppose the approach represented by Jacob’s qualities.

The verse refers to Esau as a space (land, field) in consciousness that we must draw near with the best traits and qualities endowed with Love as our Essence and true identity. These are the angels as messengers which we also send to the Creator when we want to be close to Him. This land by definition is hostile to Love’s attributes because it is a field of consciousness that does not discern, listen or understand according to intellect but to negative emotions, passion and instinct. As we said about Vayeitzei, there are Heaven and Earth as two apparent separate camps that are actually one, and Israel’s mission is to unify them in our individual and collective consciousness. This is how we turn the material world into a place for the Divine Presence to dwell among (in) us.

When our ordeals or fears overwhelm us, we tend to feel divided and separated from the camp of God’s Love: “(…) now I have become two camps. Now deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him, lest he come and strike me (…)” (32:11-12) because we feel abandoned in our doubts and uncertainties regarding the strength we need in order to make Love’s ways prevail over the apparent power of ego’s desires and illusions.

Ego does not have any power unless we provide it. Hence it depends on us to empower either aspect of consciousness toward the right purpose. We know quite well that our mission is not easy, and history reminds us this. Most of our ancestors failed or died in their endeavor to sanctify God’s Name and to honor His will. We must understand that such mission carries difficult battles that start first within our individual consciousness.

We have to be not only willing but ready for a lengthy struggle to subdue the messenger of doom that our Sages call “the angel of Esau”. This battle eventually will be won, but victory also demands eternal vigilance to secure Love’s attributes as the ruling means to redeem the material world from the darkness of ego’s negative illusions.

We prevail in that struggle guided by the highest awareness of our connection to God’s Love, which in return elevates us closer to Him. “And he [Esau’s angel] said, ‘your name shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel, because you have commanding power with [an angel of] God and with men, and you have prevailed’.” (32:29), “God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob. Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ And He named him Israel.” (35:10)

The name Israel is composed of one specific imperative quality complemented with God’s will or submitted to Him. Either way, this name represents a unifying bond with the Creator. Jacob’s prevailing determination to subdue the negative aspects of human consciousness — represented by Esau’s angel — turns Jacob into a commanding and ruling power sustained by God.

Obscure translations define Israel as “the one who struggles with God”, based on the fact that Jacob fought with one of His angels. We must clarify that Israel’s struggles are destined to fulfill God’s will through His Commandments, in order to dissipate the negative aspects of our consciousness when we approach the material world. We fulfill God’s will by emulating His attribute of abundant loving kindness (rav chesed) with which His Creation is sustained.

When we approach everything in time and space with His Love and ours, Love prevails: “And Esau ran toward him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (33:4) Rashi quotes Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai saying that, in spite of the widely known belief that Esau hated Jacob, at that time his compassion was moved and he kissed him with all his heart, because Love always prevails. When we trust and honor Love as our true Essence and identity, we proclaim God’s Love as His Glory that pervades His Creation: “There he [Israel] erected an altar, and he named it ‘God is the God of Israel’.” (33:20)

Our Sages say that Jacob built this altar in gratitude to the Creator for saving his life during his encounter with Esau, which he considered a miracle because when His Love is manifest through our loving actions, all we experience moment to moment is a miracle: “Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; save me in Your loving kindness. (…) Blessed be the Lord, for He has shown me His wondrous loving kindness in an entrenched city [adversity].” (Psalms 31:17, 22)

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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