A Torah thought on Parshas Vayishlach
by Rabbi Elchanan Shoff
As featured on Shabbat.com
In Parshas Vayishlach, the Torah tells us of Yaakov’s meeting with a man in the dead of night, with whom he fights until daybreak. He was heading back to retrieve some of his last little household objects when a man started up with him, with whom he fought until the break of day. Our sages tell us that this man was actually an angel, the angel of his brother Esav, who is also known as the Satan. and the yetzer hara. The Torah tells of how when Yaakov finally reached the point where he had prevailed in his fight with the angel, the angel said to him “send me, for the morning is here.” The Talmud (Chulin 91b) tell us that this adversary explained to Yaakov, “I am an angel. From the day that I was created, it was never my special time to sing songs of praise to God until right now.” This would seem to be an extraordinary coincidence this would seem to be – right as Yaakov finally wins and the man is trapped, he recalls that it is his day to sing to Hashem – his one day from the moment that the world was created. And indeed, Yaakov let him go after first securing his blessing.
We can mistakenly look to our challenges as vicious antagonists sent to us to derail our happiness and success. But the real truth us that even those forces that were built into our lives, psyches and world that seems to be destructive are really here to help us grow and turn into better people. The frustratingly long line in the bank is what allows us to exercise our patience, a key ingredient to being a good parent, spouse, employee or employer. That inner desire to stay in bed, and capitulate to our laziness is in fact a huge opportunity for us to truly learn what commitment means, and is our vehicle to gaining the true relationship with our accomplishments when we summon the courage to stand up an achieve. In our lives, our successes are not despite our challenges, but rather as a result of them. The forces that seems to distract and distance us, can be looked at as evil and bad, but that is tunnel vision at work. They are actually as much an angel of Hashem as those forces that inspire is to goodness. Our job is to overcome them, to wrestle them to the ground, and into submission, so that they bring us blessing.
When Yaakov fought with the angel, the moment he beat him was the moment that this angel fully actualized his potential, explains Rema Mifano (cited in Yalkut Reuveni to Bereshis 32:27, see also Avodas Yisrael citing the Olas Hachodesh). He was now ready to sing to God – to be part of the song of Hashems praise, for there is no sweeter praise than fulfilling the mission that God has entrusted one with. Far from a coincidence, this angels moment to sing teaches us the place of the challenges in our lives – they are here for us to beat, and then even those forces, even those angels, will revel in their defeat, for it will actually be their greatest success, and rush up to the Heavens to sing the sweetest of songs.