The following article may sound like a “D’var Torah” – and you can read it at your Shabbos table if you like – but it is really a lesson in life. I have often asked myself, why it is important to read about Yaakov’s problems with Lavan, his battle vs Esav, the wrestling match he had vs the angel, the horrible story of what happened to Dinah and then the tragic episode of Yoseph. What does this have to do with us in our day? The Torah is not a story book like Harry Potter – it is instructions for living – so what do we learn from all these stories?
I will make my question even stronger. So far, we have learned about Avraham and Yitzchak and now we are up to Yaakov. In learning about Avraham and Yitzchak we read just a few things. With Avraham it’s about the tests he went through and not much more than that. Regarding Yitzchak, the Torah actually tells us very little – almost nothing at all! But when it comes to Yaakov, it’s Parsha after Parsha after Parsha where we learn about this man; from the struggles he had with his twin brother in his mother’s womb to his funeral in Hebron! The Torah literally spends hundreds of p’sukim telling us almost every detail about Yaakov’s life – why do we need to know all this? What is the lesson for us and our Jewish Nation? What do we learn from all that happened to Yaakov Avinu???
You must know that while we love, respect and learn from all of the Avot – the main one for us is Yaakov. Think about this; Yaakov’s name was changed to YISRAEL and from that point on we are called Bnei YISRAEL. The land that Hashem gave us is called Eretz YISRAEL and we are Am YISRAEL. In short, we carry the name “Yisrael – ISRAEL” to this very day and therefore being a Jew means learning every lesson possible from the first “Yisrael” who was Yaakov Avinu. That is why the Torah spends so much time with Yaakov since we carry his name so we must know everything about him!!!
Do you know what we learn from Yaakov and all that he went through? That being a good Jew means fighting battles every day of your life! It wasn’t easy being Yaakov – the first “Yisrael” – and it isn’t easy being a “Yisrael” today (about 3,668 years later) Yes, it is a great privilege to be Jewish and the most amazing honor possible… but it is indeed a serious battle. To make it easier, Hashem told us about every battle that Yaakov fought so that we can learn and apply those lessons today.
Being like Yaakov means knowing when to fight Esav and knowing when to run away. Knowing when to stand tough in Lavan’s house (the “White” house??) and knowing when it’s time to leave. Knowing when to bless your children and when to punish them and knowing when to sit and learn Torah and when to work.
All these lessons come from our father Yaakov whose footsteps we must follow in. To be a strong and proud Jew means following the incredible example set by Yaakov who, as I wrote above, battled from inside the womb until his last minute alive. That is a Jew… and although we love to focus on the Glatt Kosher Pesach getaways to Disneyworld, it’s actually the battles vs Esav, Yishmael and Lavan that makes us great. Study these Parshas very carefully and make those battles count.