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The Private Battle


Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Rabbi Ron Jawary

Our true test is how honest we are with ourselves.

"And Jacob was left alone, and a man (angel) wrestled with him all night" (Genesis 32:25). As this "man" leaves in the morning, he blesses Jacob and acknowledges his greatness. One explanation given is that Jacob's fight was actually an internal conflict; he strove to overcome the tendency we sometimes have to do what is comfortable and expedient, and not what is right.

Sometimes in life we are given opportunities that seem small and insignificant as they come to us when we are alone where no one will ever know about them. The Torah is teaching us that true greatness is not always achieved through what we accomplish publicly. Often it is in the small things we do that our connection to the Divine can be found. Interestingly we see that one of the sages of the Talmud is envied by his teachers for having overcome an opportunity to take advantage of a financial leniency in Jewish law. He was one of the leading teachers of his generation, venerated for his wisdom and piety, yet the one thing for which he is envied is that act which was done in private..

Many times in life our true test is how honest we are with ourselves. No excuses, no rationalizations, no legal loopholes, just you and God. That is why Jacob is given the appellation of "holy", because nothing was small or trivial in his eyes . His private life was as pristine as his public life. He was able to find the Divine anywhere, even in a struggle which no one would ever witness or hear about.

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