NOV 15 Vayishlach – How often have you dreamt of someone and they called you the next day? How often have you thought of someone and then dreamt of them? How often have you worried over a relationship only to have the person appear in a dream, or call you the next day? How often might you have avoided calling someone because the call would be hard or painful only to have the person call you, leaving you to say ” oh, I was just thinking of you” or “oh, I meant to call you”. Often it is the truth, but embarrassing nonetheless. I know, I find myself in that situation often enough as my life is so busy that I frequently think of people, many times with a great sense of fondness, sometimes with a feeling of obligation; but then do not take the action, the follow up to my thought. And so with Jacob in this parsha, he sent the angels to Esau, he did not go himself, he sent messengers. Perhaps it was a dream, perhaps Esau dreamt of Jacob. Vayishlach is one of those portions that is filling with meaning and message, symbols and spirituality. I always like to read commentary but then see what strikes me. And every time, it is something new. This time it was the ideas of separation and reconciliation, of humility and arrogance. This week was the second anniversary of my father’s death; and I am grateful that I had an opportunity to find reconciliation with him as our relationship was unusual and difficult. He was an unusual and difficult man. But in the end I knew he loved me and was proud of me. And despite his anger, he knew I loved him too. For many years my relationship with my brothers was equally unusual and difficult, for many and varied reasons. But, in part through my father’s passing, we have found a new place of reconciliation, a new kind of relationship. We are all making an effort, we a re helping one another although we did not expect to. I do not believe that we just miraculously all changed into different people. I believe that the grace of G-d touches us sometimes in miraculous ways. Jacob in this parsha, if I understand it correctly,, says essentially that he is less because of all the mercies G-d has shown him. In reading various commentaries I found lots of interpretations of this particular line. The one I liked best, however, talked about humility and that the closer we are to G-d, the greater G-d’s mercies and kindnesses, the closer we feel to G-d and therefore the greater our humility. So rather than “less” being a bad thing, it is a good thing and, topsy turvy, being more is by definition, arrogant. Now it makes sense because we understand that when we think we are “more than” or “better than” someone else, or what we are, we are surely arrogant. So in the moments that G-d gives us, of mercy, of kindness, of recognition, and of reconciliation, we are made less in the best sense. I could not control my father’s passing, the time or the manner, but I could control my behavior toward him, and therefore our relationship, in the later years of his life. I cannot control my brothers or their feelings, but I can accept G-d’s mercy in allowing me to remain open to the possibilities of what our relationships could be. Jacob did just that, he remained open, he sought reconciliation although he did not expect it. In this parsha, and in the loss of my father, I learned the very important lesson that you hear all the time, but few of us heed, let alone act on. If you love someone, tell them. If your relationships need repair, be the first to reach out, no matter by whom the first wrong was done. If your spiritual house is awry, set it aright. I have talked a lot about service, to the Temple and the community and I believe, in this spirit of humility, of being close to G-d, of being less being a good thing that humility is called for there as well. I believe you do service, tzedakah, tikkun olam, because you are called to do it, because in doing it, you are closer to G-od, fulfilling mitzvah. And while we choose to honor and recognize those among us who serve, service must come from within and not from the need for recognition or reward. If you serve in the hope of recognition, you will always be disappointed. But if you serve with humility, close to G-d, you will never be disappointed. Jacob was a complicated character, as are we all. These ideas of humility and reconciliation provide us with an opportunity to simplify. This time of year, with it’s varied but consistent messages, provides us with an opportunity to simplify. To be the first with apology, a helping hand, a message of love or hope. These are the simple things. In the spirit of Jacob,I urge you all to simplify and make right what is wrong in your lives and in the world.
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