Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Vayishlach

I am currently attending the Biennial Convention of the Union for Reform Judaism. I always enjoy getting away and getting to see friends and colleagues that I don’t get to see too often. I appreciate the effort and energy that goes into putting on a convention for a few thousand people. I appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into planning the workshops that help our lay leaders take better ownership of our Reform Jewish present and future. All in all, it is a good experience for people who can attend.

We have experienced some wonderful and some challenging conversations thus far. We have studied ways in which congregations can better involve people and society in meaningful engagement. One great takeaway teaches us that the faith journey is fraught with blessings and challenges. Trying to figure out who we are and gut checking it’s alignment with who we think that we are can be exhilarating and painful … and both at the same time.

Briefly – this week’s Torah portion speaks of this wrestling match. Jacob wrestles with God and transforms. In the moment that he finds faith, he suffers an injury; he has to come to grips with the injuries he caused others in the past. In this reconciliation, he bears the scars of these wounds. We cannot ever undo the things that we do that hurts other people. We can atone. We can seek forgiveness. We cannot, however, undo what we did. Even as we heal wounds, we carry the scars to remind us of the ways in which we have struggled in the past.

Ultimately, the value of our journey depends on what we do with these scars. Are they teaching tools or roadblocks? Do we learn from our experiences, in order to better enjoy relationships – or, having been hurt do we become bitter and hardened?

Not every communication between two people will bear fruit. Often times, a specific conversation causes pain/anxiety to one or more members of the exchange. Jacob spends the rest of his life in conversation with God. Injured leg and all, he chooses life and the blessings it brings. If we think about the conversations we have had, especially the hurtful ones, do they define the entirety of any relationship? Even where we are hurt in one conversation, can we return to the rest of the relationship?

In every case wherein we struggle, Torah commands us to choose life. In this age when there exists so much hurt, we must remember that love and respect take energy. Sometimes it will bear fruit. All the time, our response to any crisis today will pave the tomorrow’s road – the blessing or the curse; life or death. Choose life so that we can all share in life. Shabbat Shalom.