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Vayishlach () - Jacob Wrestling - Rabbi Sacks

the covenants key to gods relationship with mankind wrestler

How does God relate to man? Since the creation of the world, God's relationship to man has been defined by specific requirements and promises. God tells. The passage resists easy interpretation, yet it holds the key to The people of the covenant are not the children of Abraham or Isaac but “the children of Israel. A man who has “wrestled with G-d and with men and has overcome” is not . In connection with Jacob, though, the prophet Micah speaks of truth. Many such motifs occur in the Bible such as: Israel's wilderness trek; the the patriarchs, its importance in relation to God's covenant with Israel, . Although Jacob wrestled valiantly with the one whom he thought to be a man.

The people of God realise that the righteous man is not he who conforms his conduct to what is right but he whom God recognises as righteous.

Patriarchs of Faith, Hope and Love - Faith Movement

It is for him whom God loves to learn to love. Jacob was not chosen because he was righteous. He is righteousbecause he is chosen. Jacob eventually receives his comeuppance for his sins and becomes a wise and mellow old man. Jacob expresses the tension between human perversity and divine love. The history of the people of God, too, is one in which they understand themselves to be supported only by the grace of God, a story of sustained hope and confidence in a beneficent, life-giving Providence, communicating His goodness to all.

The gratuitous choice of God The people of God live in the light of His countenance, humbly realising that God has not chosen them because of their own qualities or goodness. This is the mystery of election and grace. God loved Jacob, and the ground of His love lies solely in His own goodness, not in the lovableness of Jacob. God has not chosen them because they are righteous; rather, because God has chosen them they must be righteous.

Mindful of His covenant with Abraham to bless all the nations of the earth, God elects Jacob-Israel, not to privilege, but to service, to further His saving purpose among the nations. She is to be a dedicated nation, a light for the Gentiles Is Everything is against Jacob, except the mysterious ways of God, and these eventually triumph in him. He is the youngest brother in a land where pre-eminence is naturally given to the oldest son.

In contrast with Esau, Jacob is clearly the lesser vehicle; yet he bears the promise and the blessing.

Vayishlach (5768) – Jacob Wrestling

And yet, like her ancestor, Jacob-Israel, she is chosen by God to be the instrument of salvation [1]. Joseph-Patriarch of Love Joseph is very different from his father. The Joseph-saga Gen is a superb presentation of the biblical doctrine of vicarious suffering, for Joseph, when triumphant, saves his brothers who had cruelly wronged him. The act whereby they attempted to destroy him, eventually leads to their salvation in time of famine. No tension between nature and grace, disbelief and faith is found in Joseph.

There is no wrestling with the deity Jacob: No tensions between faith and unfaith Abraham or sinfulness and grace Jacob appear in Joseph, but rather in his brothers.

When Joseph jails them for three days, his brothers begin to repent because their harsh treatment reminds them of their past cruelty to Joseph Joseph insists on the presence of Benjamin for his own purposes. The old crime against Joseph is still on their consciences when, accused of stealing the sliver cup, they throw themselves down in guilt and penance.

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Joseph leads his brothers to an effective penance and conversion of heart. By re-enacting the first scene and setting up the very same circumstances Joseph wishes to see whether his brothers will for a second time abandon the other son of Rachel, their youngest brother, Benjamin, and return home to theirfather telling him that his son is lost.

If they refuse to abandon Benjamin, their moral renewal and penitence will be proven.

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It their hearts are changed, they are forgiven. This is their judgement in which Joseph identifies himself with Benjamin to test his brothers, just as Christ identifies Himself with the least of men when He comes to judge at the Final Judgement. In each case the judge determines his relationship to the judged by their freely chosen relationship to others.

Only when they have shown their love of Benjamin in their refusal to depart without him does Joseph reveal himself as their brother, and restores their friendship.

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While his brothers recover from their shock, Joseph Despite famine and their sins God has been looking after the family of Jacob-Israel to insure their survival. Salvation is bestowed on the group because of the suffering of one just man.

Salvation for both criminal and victim is seen in this amazing insight into Providence. He is the type of Messiah in whom the people of God believe and hope. With Joseph, the people of God easily make the transition from the historical individual to the corporate personality.

Joseph saves his brothers. He is the loving, beneficent ruler who not only cares for the physical needs of his people, feeding them in famine, but also for their moral rebirth, leading them to a change of heart and reconciliation. The story culminates by relating how Jacob, after sending some of his herdsmen ahead with gifts designed to appease Esau and after sending his family across the Jabbok River, was left alone v. Although Jacob wrestled valiantly with the one whom he thought to be a man, he at last received a blow that dislocated his hip.

Still he clung tightly to his opponent in order to receive a blessing from him. A nation--even a company of nations--will descend from you; kings will be among your descendants; the land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you. Here once again Jacob is linked with the God of Abraham and Isaac. Thereafter the provisions inherent in the Abrahamic Covenant become associated with the formulaic pattern, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or Israel.

The Mosaic Period The next appearance of the formulaic pattern of the patriarchal pattern the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob occurs in connection with the incident of the burning bush. When Moses turned aside to view this spectacle, the Lord spoke to him out of the bush telling him not to come any closer, for he was on holy ground.

The Lord then identified himself to Moses: The reason for this miracle was that God was informing Moses that he was about to deliver his people from their years of bondage in Egypt. This was all in accordance with what the Lord had told Abraham many long years before Gen.

This is my name forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation v. Indeed, in accordance with his repeated promise, the Lord was about to deliver his people from the power of the Pharaoh and take them out of the land of Egypt. This was doubtless reassuring to Moses as well, for the contest with Pharaoh was about to begin.

They would realize that the LORD, the God of their cherished patriarchs, was indeed the one and only true God of the universe. And greater still, all of his people could now know him in a far richer way, that is, know him personally. Thus during the Israelite encampment before Mount Sinai, God called Moses up the mountain to give him special instructions concerning proper worship procedures for the people to follow.

This led them to devise a substitute religion and so they fell into idolatry. Therefore, God told Moses to go down from the mountain and confront the people. They would perish, but Moses would yet be the channel for a great nation to come Exod.

Nevertheless, he did punish them because of their sin by sending a plague v. God would yet deal with his people as a nation in accordance with his covenant, so that eventually Israel would enter the land of promise. Although the journey would prove to be a long and difficult one, the Lord did graciously lead the way Exod.

Through these events the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is seen to be a gracious God who at times forgives his people despite their sins, for they are his special possession cf. Although obeying the law did not produce righteousness Rom. The need for covenant faithfulness is emphasized in connection with Levitical stipulations. Even then, however, God would never forget his covenant promises to the descendants of the patriarchs: Certainly God must discipline his people as the covenant prescribed cf.

On the one hand, he remembered his people, rewarding their obedience, while sometimes even forgiving them of their oft complaining.

On the other hand, his covenant obligations demanded that he punish his people for their sins.

The God Of Abraham, Isaac, And Jacob |

This is demonstrated in the incident of the twelve Israelites one from each tribe who were sent into the land of promise to investigate conditions there. Although on their return Caleb and Joshua brought back an encouraging report, the report of the others was discouraging Num. Then Moses once again interceded with the Lord on their behalf, in order that God might forgive them cf.

The Lord graciously agreed to do so, in order not to destroy Israel immediately. Moses challenged them vv. Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old and upward will see the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenzzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they followed me wholeheartedly.

This includes both his blessings and his chastisements. He expects his followers likewise to be faithful to covenant requirements. Much of what is expressed in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers is emphasized in Deuteronomy. Indeed, it was the Lord who also had enacted the Mosaic Covenant or Lawwhile maintaining the promise in the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Lord is indeed a faithful God. There they were to revere the Lord and live faithful, obedient lives Deut. At that time he had to intercede passionately with God on behalf of the people so that they would not utterly be destroyed. Moreover, this is to be an everlasting covenant with the people of Israel vv. The basic covenant made at Mount Sinai was, therefore, being renewed and updated for the generation that was about to enter the land.

These were concluded by a narrative epilogue detailing some historical notices One last occurrence in the Pentateuch of the ancient formula associated with the Abrahamic Covenant is found in Deuteronomy What a privilege and joy it must have been for Moses in his final hours not only to view the land to which he had labored so long to bring the people, but to be in intimate contact with the faithful, covenant keeping God of the universe! Elijah had a significant ministry for the Lord, so much so that three chapters chs.

It is in the account of his contest with the prophets of Baal that we find the familiar patriarchal formula. Despite their frenzied efforts, the prophets of Baal achieved nothing in their attempts. God sent a fire that not only consumed the sacrifice, but the altar itself and everything surrounding it. The use of the patriarchal formula not only reminded the Israelites of who was their God, but also demonstrated that those who are faithful to the Lord could call upon him and have their prayers answered cf.

It is noteworthy as well that in the formula utilized here the patriarchal name Israel occurs rather than Jacob. Nevertheless, God remained faithful to them in spite of their stubborn hearts.

These three facts are enough to allow us to decipher the mystery of the meeting between Jacob and Esau twenty-two years later. The patriarchs were more than just founders of a new faith. They were also role models. Their lives are significant not only for what they tell us about the past but also for what they tell us about the present — for their challenges are ours.

Abraham was the man who had the strength of conviction to stand apart from the culture of his time — to be different, to refuse to worship the idols of the age, to listen instead to the inner voice of the one G-d, even when it meant setting out on a long and risk-laden journey.

What carried him through was love chessed — love of G-d and, yes, the love of humanity that shines through all his deeds and words. Isaac was the man who knew the reality of sacrifice.

Patriarchs of Faith, Hope and Love

He lived, he survived, but not without seeing the knife lifted against him. He knew to the core of his being that to be a child of the covenant is neither easy nor safe.

What carried him through was courage gevurah — and for whatever reason, the historical record is clear: He does not mean truth in a cognitive sense What are the facts? What is ultimately real? He means it in an existential sense Who am I? To which story do I belong and what part am I called on to play? The search for cognitive truth — scientific, metaphysical, artistic — is not specific to the Abrahamic covenant. It is the heritage of all mankind.

There is no such thing as Jewish science or economics or psychology. The truth with which Jacob spent much of his life wrestling was quite different. It was a truth about identity. Central to it are the words face in which mirror do I look to see who I am? He struggles with him in the womb. The answer seems clear. Esau is everything Jacob is not. He is the firstborn. Esau is homo naturalisa man of nature. Esau is the archetypal hero of a hundred myths and legends of the ancient world and of action movies today.

He is not without dignity, nor does he lack human feelings. His love for his father Isaac is genuine and touching. The midrash, for sound educational reasons, turned Esau into a bad man. The Torah itself is altogether more subtle and profound. Esau is not a bad man; he is a natural man, celebrating the Homeric virtues and the Nietzschean will to power. That is the face he first saw in the mirror of his imagination, the face he presented to the blind Isaac when he came to take the blessing.

But the face was not the face of Jacobany more than were the hands. Nor was the blessing he took the one that was destined for him. The true blessing was the one he received later when Isaac knew he was blessing Jacobnot thinking him to be Esau.

It had to do with children and a land — children he would instruct in the ways of the covenant and a land in which his descendants would strive to construct a covenantal society based on justice and compassion, law and love. Instead he had to be himself, not a man of nature but a person whose ears were attuned to a voice beyond nature, the call of the Author of all to be true to that which cannot be bought by wealth or controlled by power, namely, the human spirit as the breath of G-d and human dignity as the image of G-d.