I am so proud that my beloved Eshet Hayil, Ellen, is being honored during Shabbat Services this coming Shabbat evening, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Ellen has had a stellar career as KI religious school educator since 1981. For the past 12 years, she has served as director of KI Library Services, creating author and book events for the entire community.
Ellen’s transformative achievements in the KI Meyers Library are known to us all! I want you to know that she brought her love of Jewish learning and Jewish books directly from our home and our children to the KI Library and the students of the KI preschool and J-quest program. Just as Ellen selected appropriate and meaningful books for every preschool class and read to the young students weekly, she did the same in our own home as our children were growing from infants to young people and to adults. Ellen taught the value of reading Jewish books to Avrum, Howard, and Alana from their earliest days and months. Ellen taught our children why the Jewish people are called Am Hasefer, the People of the Book! In their adult lives as serious committed Jews, they are now voracious readers of books of all kinds. We have special Nahat that our son, Rabbi Howard and his wife Naomi, are transmitting their Mother’s teachings and ensuring that their children love and cherish Jewish books. Ellen will frequently read a Jewish book to our grandson Micah during our daily FaceTime call, as he follows in his own copy.
Our children, Avrum, Rabbi Howard, Alana, our daughter-in-law, Naomi, and our grandchildren, Micah Toby and Sophie Daniela, join me in congratulating Ellen, for 38 years of stellar work for the KI greater community and for the Jewish people!
This Shabbat, we read the portion, VAYISHLACH/JACOB SENT…, the eighth portion in B’reishit/Genesis. After a twenty year separation, Jacob and Esau, his estranged older brother, are about to reunite! As young men, Jacob and his mother, Rebecca, had tricked Isaac into bestowing the birthright blessing on him, rather than Esau. Jacob worked for his father-in-law, Laban, for 14 years, and was tricked into first marrying Leah. He was ultimately permitted to marry his beloved Rachel only after agreeing to work for Laban for seven more years.
He prospers as his family grows. Now he is told to return to his homeland to reunite with Esau, and he is scared! He divides his herds into two groups, placing his 11 sons and two wives behind the herd, as he goes to meet his brother!
Jacob now recites a prayer, a formal statement of words to G-d Almighty, as he readies himself for this reunion. “O G-d of my father Abraham and G-d of my father Isaac…Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else I fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike. Yet You (G-d) have said, ‘I will deal bountifully with you and make your offspring as the sands of the sea, which are too numerous to count.’”(10:10-13). This text is only the second prayer in the Torah, to this moment! The beginning phrase is an antecedent of the words that will eventually morph into HaT’fillah, the Standing Prayer/Amidah that we now recite on Shabbat evenings and mornings. Of course, what is missing is the name of Jacob, who is not yet considered to be the third forefather of the Jewish people!
In Chapter 32, we learn about an unusual interaction. After crossing the Jabbok River, Jacob brings his huge entourage of animals along with his family with him until they are all safe. He spends the night alone, but an unknown man attacks him. Jacob and his enemy wrestle all night long. His assailant is unable to subdue Jacob, but does permanent damage to his hip. He demands that Jacob release him. Jacob agrees only after this mysterious foe blesses him. He states, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and you have prevailed.”(32:29)
The Rabbis have discussed the identity of this strange adversary for generations. Was Jacob/Israel wrestling with G-d Almighty, with his brother Esau, or with himself? This event becomes a paradigm for all of us “G-d wrestlers” as we struggle with G-d, with our thoughts, and with our decisions that confront us daily. These “wrestling matches” leave us scarred, as Jacob was scarred, and then we are all better able to carry on with our lives!
The brothers reunite, and the reunion of Israel and Esau is peaceful! They kiss and weep for joy. Jacob presents gifts to his brother, who must be convinced to accept them.
We learn of the death and burial of Rachel, along the road to Bethlehem. Her tomb is a major site for Jews to this day. Isaac dies at age 180 years. He is buried by both his sons Esau and Jacob/Israel in the Machpelah Cave.
All the Tilman’s wish our extended KI family Shabbat Shalom U’m’vorach.