Kenneth Cohen

Yakov’s Challenges

This week, the focus of the Torah shifts to Yakov Avinu. We learn of the struggles that he went through in his life.

When Rivka convinced Yakov to dress up as Eisav, she said, עלי יהיו כלנה, that basically meant that the responsibility for what he did was on her. The Rabbis noted that the word, “עלי,” is an abbreviation of עשו, לבן, and יוסף. These three individuals presented Yakov, with the greatest challenges of his life. He needed to outsmart his brother, Eisav, and his father in-law, Lavan. His separation from his beloved son, Yosef, for twenty-two years, caused him tremendous grief.

The Kuzari tells us that Yakov was the first person after creation, twenty-three generations later, who had completely righteous offspring. They were worthy to become the foundation of the Jewish nation.

Yakov needed to develop the tools to deal with the wicked, and still maintain his integrity. He knew that leaving Israel would give him less protection, as he was no longer surrounded by the holiness of the Holy Land. This is why he took a fourteen year detour to study in the Yeshiva of Shem, to strengthen himself.

When he had the dream of the ladder, with the angels ascending and descending, he was shown the future. He saw the long exile they would face, and how they constantly needed to overcome enemies wishing to destroy us.

We must armor ourselves with the protection needed to deal with our own challenges. Unfortunately, there is still evil in the world, that must be defeated. With the resolve and faith of Yakov Avinu, as our guide, we can overcome all obstacles, and maintain our integrity, in our service to the Al-mighty.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at