YA'AKOV'S STRUGGLE: A MODEL OF TESHUVAH
Could Ya'akov's (Jacob) altercation with
a mysterious man have been the beginning of a process of repentance for
having taken the blessings of his brother Esau?
As the narrative unfolds, Ya'akov is told
he would be given another name - Yisrael (Israel). Nachum Sarna points
out that the name Yisrael contains the root y-sh-r, meaning straight.
Ya'akov, the deceiver, has transformed to Yisrael, one who resolved to be
straight and up front with those around him.
In this way, Ya'akov was fulfilling yet another step in the teshuvah process; the step of resolving not to make the same mistake again (kabbalah). Never again would he be deceptive (Ya'akov); he would forever change his ways by being up front (Yisrael) and open (Peniel).
Nechama Leibovitz clinches the idea that this altercation had something to do with Ya'akov's repentance. She notes that the angel, at this point, merely announced that Ya'akov would eventually be given another name. The name wasn't changed right there. This is because, before full teshuva takes place, sins committed against one's fellow person require asking forgiveness of the aggrieved party.
Before Ya'akov could be given an
additional name he had to ask forgiveness of his brother. In the words
of Nechama Leibovitz;" Only after he had said to Esau: 'Take I pray
thee my blessing' (Genesis 33:11) and after his brother had accepted the
blessing could the Almighty reveal Himself to him and announce the
fulfillment of the promise (of his new name) made by the angel."
All of us have made plenty of mistakes and teshuvah is a divine gift from God, allowing us to right our wrongs. It is a complex psychological process and Ya'akov shows the way it is done.
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