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Our Parsha includes one of the most monumental events in Jewish history, the renaming of Ya'acov. This event occurs while he is returning home after 36 years away from his parents (14 years in the Yeshivah of Shem and Ever; 14 years working Rachel and Layah, and 6 years working for Lavan and accumulating great wealth and two years travelling).
Before he is reunited with his parents, he is informed that his brother Eisav is advancing with an army of 400 warriors. He readies himself through prayer and peace offerings, and when all else fails, Ya'acov prepares himself for battle. He divides his entourage and waits for battle.
Suddenly, in the middle of the night, he crosses the River Jabbok and encounters a very powerful force.
"And Ya'akov was left alone and a MAN struggled with him until the break of dawn" (B'rayshit 32:25).
Rashi sites a Gemara (Chullin 91a) that explains that Ya'acov suddenly remembered that he left a "Pach Katan" (a small jug) on the other bank of the Jabbok river. It was while searching for the jugs that he encountered the Sar Shel Eisav (the guardian angel of Eisav). What compelled Ya'acov to endanger himself for a few small jugs?
Rashi goes on to say that the possessions of a Tzadik (a righteous man) are important to him, for they come through the Grace of Hashem. However, there is another explanation that is very interesting.
The Midrash tells us that thirty four years earlier, when Ya'acov was leaving Eretz Yisarel to find a wife, Eisav made his son Alifaz (one of his more compassionate offspring, who was raised on the knee of Yitzchak) swear to kill Ya'acov. Ya'acov camped one night and heard strange noises.
Alifaz declared that he was ordered by his father to kill Ya'acov, his uncle. Ya'acov explained to Alifaz the tradition that, Ahni Nechshav K'met (a poor person is considered a dead man). Convinced, out of sympathy, Alifaz took all of Ya'acov's possessions and thereby fulfilled his oath to his father.
That night Ya'acov had a dream about angels descending and ascending a ladder stretched to the heavens (last week's Parsha). One of the angels gave Ya'acov a miraculous Pach Katan (a small jug). This jug contained pure olive oil that when empty, suddenly became full again. Ya'acov used his jug to obtain the funds necessary to finance his trip to Lavan. That was the miraculous jug that Ya'acov left on the banks of the river and returned to get. We'll get back to the jug later.
The Angel that fought Ya'acov was the guardian angel of Eisav. He has many names, Samael, Satan, the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination), Sitra Achra (the other side), just to name a few. They struggled, and the angel realized that he could not overpower Ya'acov. So he struck him on the thigh, wounding him (for this reason Jews don't eat the hind quarter of cattle [see verse 33]). Then, the sun began to rise, and the angel had to leave, but not before Ya'acov had forced a blessing from Samael.
Verse 29 reads;
"No longer will it be said that your name is Ya'acov, but Yisrael, for you have striven with the Divine and with man, and you have overcome (Ki Saritah Im Elohim V'im Anashim Vatuchal)."
Ya'acov represents the passive Jew. There are times that passivity is the proper approach. But, there are times when the Jewish people must be aggressive, and this is what the name Yisrael represents. After this name change Ya'acov was not limited to passive responses. He had overcame the most powerful force one could encounter, a metamorphosis took place in him, he became a different person, another being, he became Yisrael.
For this reason his children became known as the B'nai Yisrael (the Children of Yisrael), and the land they inherited became known as Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Yisrael). For they are aggressive in nature, they must continually wrestle with Hashem and with man in order to exist.
Let uss return to the Jug. Ya'acov passed this jug on to his son Levi. Eventually it was inherited by Aaron who was annoited with its oil and then annoited the Altar of the Tabernacle with it, and first filled the Menorah with its wondrous oil. It was passed on from leader to leader until finally, the Maccabees defeated the Greeks and the Hellenists and entered the Holy Temple to resume the Holy service. But they couldn't find oil to light the seven branched Menorah until someone found a Pach Katan (a small jug) of oil that miraculously burnt for eight days.
My friends, Chanukah is almost upon us. And one of the blessings that we say when we light our Menorahs is:
"Sheasah Nisim La'avotaynu Bayamim Hahaym U'bazman Hazeh - (that You have performed miracles for our ancestors in those days and in this time)."
This blessing might have been said by the Maccabees when they witnessed the miracle of the Jug. And we who have lived to see the birth pangs of redemption, can say the same blessing with total conviction.
But, sometimes we act like Ya'acov when we should be acting like Yisrael.
We must actively see that miracles are occurring all around us and in every generation, from Auschwitz to the establishment of the State of Yisrael, from the Six Day War to the return of over a million Soviet Jews to Eretz Yisrael, from the battles against assimilation to the reawakening of our people all around the globe. True, these battles and these victories have taken their toll. In many ways, like Ya'acov we also were wounded, but we have prevailed.
This Chanukah let us light our Menorahs with the fervor of Jews who not only can make light, but who can see the light. Let us pour forth that never ending Pach Katan that is in each and every one of us. And, let us aggressively allow our light to shine, heralding the miracles that have fashioned us into Children of Hashem.
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