December 10, 2022: Parashat Torah Portion Vayishlach
This week’s Parashah Torah Portion Vayishlach is taken from Genesis 32:4 - 36:43. Join Dr. Jeffery Myers, as he relays this powerful encounter that Ya’Akov had with YAH during his trip back home to the Promised Land.
Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Parashah Torah Portion:
Lion of Judah Speaks: Parashah Torah Portion Vayishlach - Genesis 32:4 - 36:43
This powerful torah portion is about Ya’Akov and his transition as he has an encounter with Yah during his trip back home.
Gen. 32:22-31 says, “Ya’aKov got up that night, took his two wives, his two slave-girls, and his eleven children, and forded the Yabok. He took them and sent them across the stream, then sent his possessions across; and Ya’akov was left alone. Then some man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he did not defeat Ya’akov, he struck Ya’akov’s hip socket, so that his hip was dislocated while wrestling with him. The man said, “Let me go, because it’s daybreak.” But Ya’akov replied, “I won’t let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked, “What is your name?” and he answered, “Ya’akov.” Then the man said, “From now on, you will no longer be called Ya’akov, but Israel; because you have shown your strength to both Yah and men and have prevailed.” Ya’akov asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he answered, “Why are you asking about my name?” and blessed him there. Ya’akov called the place P’ne-El (face of Yah), “Because I have seen Yah face to face, yet my life is spared.”
At some point in our lives as we grow up, we set our sights on leaving home, finding a spouse, creating a family unit of our own. We leave behind the way life was…changes occur that can never be undone. We move out leaving behind our familiar ways and places that once housed our lives. When I go back to where I grew up, I can hardly recognize the new buildings and streets. It is almost too hard to move around the city I once knew like the back of my hand. This is a natural part of our lives. Growing up or growing older are both a process of leaving home. Sometimes circumstances of life dictate a move; a job, school, death, a divorce. In Abram and Sarai’s life they left for a new land totally trusting on Abba to lead the way. They left their father’s land, that which was familiar, to seek out the purpose and will of Adonai. Adam and Chava however, left the garden that was prepared for them because of sin. In fact, they were driven out as an act of grace in order to bring salvation to them.
Changes also affect our spiritual condition, the disruption causes us to gain a different perspective and either draws us away from Adonai or closer to Him, depending on our reaction. Regardless of how or why it happens to disrupt life, there is always a longing to return home. Once we leave home it won’t ever be like it was before. We can’t undo the past or turn back the clock. We can go for limited visits…but it is not the same.
We cannot keep things or people the way they used to be, Adonai has a place for us, we are not destined to be homeless. That is not Adonai’s intention! In a way, we leave home so that we might return home, but we never go back as the same person we were when we left. What we find is that the journey home changes us.
Throughout the Torah Yah promises to bring His people home, to a new land, the promised land. We find in this parashah, Ya’akov is an heir to that promise, a promise first made to his grandfather, Abram. This promised land is more than a physical place. It is a spiritual home of wholeness, healing and shalom. Within its walls houses love and union with Abba, neighbor, and self. However, this doesn’t mean the journey is easy or without struggle—to the contrary, the journey home always brings us to the river Yabok.
This portion is about Ya’akov. He ran away from home to escape a bad situation and death because he cheated Esau. It involves an inheritance and a blessing stolen. He worked for 14 years away from home for his uncle and gained two wives, eleven children and a lot of livestock, the blessing of Adonai was certainly on him. Now Ya’akov wants to go home! He stands at the river Yabok. The way home always brings us to the ford of the Yabok. He must cross it to get home, it is a part of his journey experience. We each have our own Yabok that we must cross! Ya’akov, always thinking, sends his wives, maids, children across the river, but he stays behind. He sends gifts to Esau to guarantee his safe passage to his home. Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men so Ya’akov is scheming to try to fix what he broke years prior…will it work?
Ya’akov can’t buy his way out. He is stuck! In front of him is Esau, behind him is his past; the lies, the deception, the stolen blessing; the home he left behind. Darkness has arrived and Ya’akov stands alone on the banks of the Yabok. Yabok is more than a river. It is a lonely place, a dark place, a place of struggle and wrestling.
During this time, he wrestled with a man the Scripture says. Who is that man? Was it Adonai, Esau, Laban, Isaac or himself? Was it his past, present, or future? Maybe his identity, his faith and maybe in Jewish fashion the answer is YES to all of them. No matter, we know it was a face-to-face meeting with Adonai. Ya’akov in this encounter is both wounded and blessed. He was holding on to who he was, what he did but as daybreak came Ya’akov is no longer Ya’akov, the deceiver and supplanter. He has been reborn and renamed. He is now Israel, the one who struggled with and prevails against Yah. Ya’akov does not defeat Yah. He prevails! He stays in the struggle until a new day dawns, and he receives the blessing that was always his. That is faithfulness and that is the way home. That is our work at Yabok!
Yabok is a place most of us know very well, Yabok is the struggle with sin, confusion, compromise, addiction, oppression, and depression, just to name a few. It’s getting up every morning on the bank of Yabok to the grief and loss that is unbearable. The tossing and turning through the night trying to figure out what to do next, to make sense of it all. It is the process of rebuilding trust, restoring relationships. It is faithfulness in the routine ordinariness of life, work, family, marriage and ministry. It’s a week, a year, a lifetime of prayer and doing what’s right but not ever seeing the result.
We experience Yabok a thousand different ways. It is the darkness of our lives and the way home. It is the place where we are wounded, renamed, blessed, and made a new person. It is a holy place! That is why Ya’akov renames Yabok. He now calls it Peniel, the place where we see Yah and our life is preserved.
All of us have our own story standing on the banks of Yabok. We can name the wounds we received there and describe how we now limp through life. In the midst of the struggle and all the pain of being wounded it’s hard to see or trust the presence of a blessing. It’s too dark to see! But whatever you do don’t let go! Hold on! Daybreak is coming! Yabok will soon give way to Peniel. A new day, a new name, a new journey, a new destiny, a new blessing—one that is yours, not bought or stolen…YOURS!
Let me tell you—life is not magically fixed or returns to the old ways. It means Yah is faithful! It means we can now move forward! We are blessed, renamed, and made a new person; free to cross over and finally go home! By the power of the Ruach…we are changed and destiny calls and praise Yah we can answer!
Shabbat Shalom Mishpocha,
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Have a great Sabbath, Hold on! Let your destiny unfold as you transition into Yah’s purpose for you! Give Him all the praise and see you next week!