This week’s parsha post was written by Amy Weiss, Director of Service-Learning Initiatives, at the University of Maryland Hillel.
In Parsha Vayishlach, Jacob is struggling with the impending reunion with his brother Esau. While preparing for this encounter, Jacob engages in a wrestling match with a ‘man.’ This man has been interpreted by commentators to represent many things including an angel, a human being and lastly, as Jacob wrestling with himself. Gripped by anticipation of meeting his brother, Jacob is up all night struggling with his emotions and this momentous reunion.
At the end of this struggle, Jacob receives the name Israel, marking that he has been changed forever. From this struggle, he gained a deeper understanding of himself and of his path. Jacob was walking into the unknown – stepping away from the comfort of the familiar and into unknown territory with his estranged brother. Whether this encounter was an angel, a person or Jacob’s conscious, it is clear that Jacob was changed and he could not move forward with acknowledging this shift that had happened within him.
When we choose to step out of our comfort zones such as on an immersive experience, we encounter new places, people and struggles that shake us to our core. We struggle with our reactions to injustices we witness – whether it is when we travel abroad and witness chronic poverty or when we drive to work and see the inequities between neighborhoods or when we see natural tragedies play out in the news.
Our emotions are simultaneously triggered and paralyzed by the enormity of the task in front of us. Like Jacob, all of us need to continue to step outside our comfort zone and struggle with our moral imperative to act. We each must find a way to not be overwhelmed by the immense injustice in our world, but to utilize the power and resources we have to mobilize and to act. We must bear witness to these struggles and as Jacob did, allow it to transform us so we can never be the same – we can never be complicit.