Vayischlach

When I was younger, 

I was struggling with Faith,

How to be in Faith,

Find a blind Faith!

 

I loved music and I Looked at 2 great musicians Mozart and Beethoven. 

 

Which one was I????

Which one are You???

 

The impression one gets about 

 

Mozart is that, from him, music 

 

flowed. 

 

There is something effortless and 

 

effervescent about his compositions. 

 

He wrote at speed. 

 

He carried the worries of the world 

 

lightly.

 

 

Beethoven, for whom it sometimes 

 

took years for an idea to crystallise 

 

into its final form, 

 

with countless drafts and revisions,

 

This was a man who could be angry 

 

with himself and with the world, 

 

for whom creativity was a struggle 

 

And full of conflict until its final 

 

majestic resolution. 

 

And jus latest compositions were the 

 

creation of one who has finally found 

 

peace after a life of wrestling with his 

 

own angels and demons.

 

 

I am not trying to give music lesson, 

 

but all of this is, for me, a way of 

 

coming to understand Jacob, 

 

the man who became Israel, 

 

our father in faith.

 

Jacob is not the most obvious choice 

 

of religious hero. 

 

He does not appear, 

 

at least on the surface of the biblical 

 

text , 

 

as a man with Abraham’s courage or kindness, 

 

Isaac’s faithfulness and self-restraint, 

 

Moses’ vigour and passion, 

 

David’s politics and poetry, 

 

or Isaiah’s lyricism and hope.

 

 

He was a man surrounded by conflict: 

 

• with his brother Esau, 

 

• his father-in-law Laban, 

 

• his wives, Leah and Rachel, 

 

and his children, 

 

whose sibling rivalry eventually 

 

brought the whole family into exile in 

 

Egypt. 

 

His life seems to have been a field of tensions.

 

 

Then there were his transactions: 

 

• the way he purchased Esau’s birthright, 

 

• took his blessing, 

 

and eventually 

 

• got the best out of his father-in-law 

Laban. 

 

In each case he seems to have won, 

 

but then his situation deteriorates. 

 

• He deceived his blind Father and this forced him to leave home and this left him traumatised with fear at the 

prospect of meeting Esau again. 

 

• He suffered at the hand of Laban. 

 

• His life as portrayed in the Torah 

 

seems to be a constant series of 

 

escapes from one trouble to the next.

 

So who and what was Jacob?

 

To this there are two radically 

 

different answers. 

 

- There is the Jacob of midrash 

 

• who spent his years as a young man 

 

studying in the bet midrash , 

 

• who looked like Abraham

 

and 

 

• whose arms were like pillars of 

 

marble.

 

• His motives were always pure. 

 

 

Jacob is called an

 

                     ish tam

 

which conveys the sense of 

 

• simplicity, 

• integrity and 

• single-mindedness. 

 

The plain sense of the oracle 

 

Rebekah received before the twins 

 

were born was that 

 

“the elder will serve the younger.” 

 

She knew Jacob was 

 

the son destined to prevail. 

 

 

The other Jacob, though, is the 

 

one we read in the plain sense of the text. 

 

The obvious question is: 

 

why did the Torah choose to portray

the third of the patriarchs in this way? 

 

The Torah is highly selective in the details it chooses to relate.

 

Why not paint Jacob in more attractive colours?

 

It seems to me that the Torah is 

 

delivering, 

 

here as elsewhere

 

an extraordinary message: 

 

that if we can truly relate to 

 

G-d as G-d, 

 

in His full superiority ,

 

then we can relate to humans as 

 

humans in all our ability in doing errors.

 

The man who, more than any other, 

 

has the tendency to make mistakes or 

 

be wrong,  is Jacob.

 

And perhaps that is the point. 

 

Jacob was a Beethoven, not a Mozart. 

 

His life was a series of struggles. 

 

Nothing came easily to him. 

 

He is the patriarchs, and was a man 

 

who chose to be chosen. 

 

• Abraham was called by G- d. 

 

• Isaac was chosen before his birth. 

 

• Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, 

 

Isaiah, Jeremiah: 

 

these were all singled out by G- d for 

 

their mission. 

 

Not so Jacob. 

 

• It was he who bought the birthright 

 

and took the blessing, 

 

• he who chose to carry Abraham’s 

 

destiny into the future.

 

• Not until he was running away from 

 

home did G-d  appear to him. 

 

• Not until years later, alone, at

 

night, terrified at the prospect of 

 

meeting Esau, did G- d or an angel 

 

wrestle with him. 

 

• He alone was given, by G-d or the 

 

angel, a completely new name,

 

a completely new identity: “Israel.” 

 

And, despite the fact that he was told 

 

“Your name shall no more be called 

 

Jacob,” 

 

the Torah continues to call him Jacob, 

 

suggesting that his struggle was 

 

lifelong as, often, is ours.

 

If I would have to choose a 

 

soundtrack for the Jacob I have come 

 

to know, it would be Beethoven’s

 

Hammerklavier Sonata 

 

or his Grosse Fugue, music of such 

 

big tension.

 

This is how  Beethoven went through 

 

his struggles and  eventually reached 

 

serenity, 

 

and it was through Jacob’s extended 

 

wrestling-match with destiny that he 

 

eventually achieved what neither 

 

Abraham nor Isaac accomplished: 

 

all his children stayed within the faith. 

 

According to the pain is the reward,”

 

said the sages . 

 

That is Jacob.

 

G-d does not reach out only to saints. 

 

He reaches out to all of us. 

 

That is why He gave us 

 

Abraham for those who love, 

 

Isaac for those who fear, 

 

and Jacob/Israel for those who struggle.

 

if you find yourself struggling with faith, you are in the company of Jacob-who-became-Israel, the father-in-faith of us all.

 

Shabbat shalom,

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420