Real Life Jacobs

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”” (Genesis 32:24-28) 

Just above my hip (to lower back) is quite sore right now (very stiff and hard to move around at times) – after a long night of wrestling with my thoughts, talking/arguing with the wife, and thinking about my relationship with God. This story immediately came to mind for me – namely because of the hip thing but also because wrestling/striving ain’t easy (maybe I deserve to be sore).  

It all started with blogging and really getting into questioning mode – and then I read two letters of Paul’s (Colossians and Philippians) online (so I skimmed them in certain parts)…it got me thinking about what Paul means when he talks about Jesus (so I was troubled). Then I watched a show on doctors over-medicating young children – needless to say – I wasn’t happy. Then the wife and I got into a long discourse about the show, life, buying a house, and personal issues. By the end of the night I threw up my hands and whispered something to God which I cannot even remember.

Yesterday was also one of those days when it rains – it pours. It was like I was the bane of some people’s existence – and I hate being the ‘bane’. I started to realize – ‘maybe I am not as good a person as I think/perceive I am’ (clouded by my own self righteous judgment) – and that realization always sucks. I realized I needed to be more gracious to people – and more sensitive dare I say? Anyways, that helped to chip away at my identity…and started the wrestling…and I didn’t even get blessed.

A lot of this is my fault – I was being harsh to critiques offered to me – and hard hearted (I wanted to say ‘I am sorry’ – but pride was the river card). I noticed I wanted to drop mercy and be mean for a few moments – I hate when people can’t do the impossible…I think I even said ‘I’ll walk on water before some of them can even admit the possibility of change…damn doubters’. I wanted to explain ‘I am content’ – but in the meantime – ‘I am discontent’ – and for good cause – you can’t help everyone (and sometimes no one). The night was near and like Jacob I say to my wife (which is not rare “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking”.

My hip is sore now. I doubted Jesus’ divinity. I questioned Paul. I don’t like drugs. I think I have the answers. I am lazy around the house. There is nothing redemptive about this is there? Oh well…I won’t leave until ‘You bless me’ or ‘change my identity’ – strivers ayways.

I like Jacob…I mean Israel. Things changed you know – and that’s the process of life. My hip is sore today…but not tomorrow. I feel shades of guilt today – I will make it right when and how I can…I say some stupid things…but this ain’t one of them.

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11 thoughts on “Real Life Jacobs

  1. Just something I wrote a couple days ago:

    There is nothing quite like escaping into davening. The world starts to crowd in, people start to encroach on my space, the mind starts going in all directions, but then it is time to daven.

    And all of that ceases.

    For a time life is peaceful and serene again, my mind and soul get pulled back to where they belong, my focus shifts again to that space occupied by Jews through the ages, HaMakom, The Place.

    I was troubled for a time, life was so hectic, people so accusing. You Jews, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Yet when I entered ‘the sanctuary’, when I reached HaMakom, The Place, God, it all became clear to me. Things will never change, yet will others ever know the joy of studying Torah with love, the wonder of discovery as they ponder its pages, the cleanness, the freedom? Will others truly feel the joy of living in a beautiful world as they listen to birds singing? If not, surely becoming irritated is an irrational response. I should instead feel kind of sad that anyone would miss so much of living.

    HaMakom, The Place, the serenity, the wonder, davening. God’s nearness is my good. Adonai is near to all, to all who call upon Adonai sincerely (Psalm 145:38). Perhaps finally on the day when Adonai is acknowledged Ruler of all the earth (Zekhariah 14:9) it will be understood, that Adonai is the Ruler of all already. Adonai will be let out of the box and finally the realization will dawn, we Jews already have Adonai; all the people everywhere who worship the One God already have Adonai. All the arguing will finally cease.

    And I realized all this, when I entered ‘the sanctuary’, HaMakom. Davening. God’s whisper to me in the stillness of davening. Peace. Shalom.

  2. Hi Jason,

    I really like your honesty, it refreshes me. I don’t mind at all that you question and wrestle with things and easily admit to it.

    My left hip is permenently sore from being a mom and raising two little boys as we wrestled through their toddler years. One usually on my hip while I grabbed at another one. When my grandson was born, this old injury has resurfaced and it reminds me that no matter how old I get, I still have the same basic way of dealing with things. It is inborn, who I am.

    I came here because I wanted to say that I’m sorry about some things, you know what they are, I think. I tried hard to stay friends with everyone (which is something I dream of, all people learning to get along) and it came back and bit me in the behind. In my heart, I didn’t like the way you were treated but convinced myself that I should take the ‘higher road’ but often there is no higher road and the battle avoided on one day usually presents itself on another day and can’t be avoided. I’ve had a good taste now of what you also endured and all the things that I said to defend a certain person have proved themselves to be fallacy. I continually ignore my first instincts about people and situations and get the same old wounds rubbed raw and reopened. Anyway, I only drank a little kool-aid and spit the rest out.

    I don’t like drugs either, I’m sometimes lazy, I sometimes envolve myself in things I shouldn’t but as long as we’re honest about what needs fixing in us and brave enough to look, I think we’ll turn out okay. I’m sick of fighting too especially over theology. It’s rediculous none of us can comprehend the whole mind of God and none of us are more worthy of Him than anyone else. I know though that God is not in any box we build for Him. He lives in us and the way we treat one another is what it is all about and not what we know. “Knowledge puffs up but love edifies”

    I desire to be less knowledgable and instead, more loving. Please, pray for me, my brother.

    Pam

  3. Pam, you’re always welcome here and I appreciate the fact you have the integrity to stand for another – even to ask the questions that need to be asked – I am also very thankful that you care enough to make amends (I never held it against you in the slightest). It’s too bad you had to come to this conclusion by feeling the same ‘wrath’ (of sorts) – from those whom think they can be trusted. I mean, it takes a bigger person to be able to be humble than to be proud – shame on them.

    “I desire to be less knowledgable and instead, more loving. Please, pray for me, my brother.” (Pam)

    Pam, you always get what you ask for – you just have to reach out and grab it. I am more than sure God is glad to give wisdom and love to those who ask…I actually see the very prayers of Jesus (regarding asking and recieving anything) in this manner – we have to desire things that are values (ie: wisdom) and they are their for us.

    It’s good to hear from ya Pam…it’s been a while.

  4. “Yet when I entered ‘the sanctuary’, when I reached HaMakom, The Place, God, it all became clear to me. Things will never change,..I should instead feel kind of sad that anyone would miss so much of living.” )Yael)

    I tend to agree – there is a lot of living to be done and a lot of good things to be touched upon – we have to walk on razors sometimes to get there – but life is a great thing and many people miss out on it’s fulness by being side-tracked with problems after problems. I pointed out to my wife – I have problems but I don’t want them to weigh me down – I will not worry about them – contentness is my goal (and to me being content is about faith in God, faith to apply those things taught, and not giving up hope for light in a time of shade).

    “Adonai will be let out of the box and finally the realization will dawn, we Jews already have Adonai; all the people everywhere who worship the One God already have Adonai. All the arguing will finally cease.” (Yael)

    I think this is the ‘day of days’ for anyone in faith – we all want to know what God thinks of us (instead of the other way around – thus the boxes). I think Judaism does have a connection with God – and it was the primary one (of the big 3 monotheist beliefs). However, it will be kind of a sad day for me, ‘that day’, because I like the debates and wonderings.

  5. However, it will be kind of a sad day for me, ‘that day’, because I like the debates and wonderings.

    You’d better convert then! (Only joking. Don’t anyone get up in arms or anything.) Judaism has a teaching that in Olam Haba we will still continue to study Torah and debate, only I guess the debates will be somewhat different since we won’t have to argue about who will be there. At least I would hope not! Those are the arguments that get tiresome, the rest, the wondering about Torah? Those I mostly enjoy. And I have no doubt we will continue to wrestle about God and probably even with God!

  6. It’s not easy being a ‘Jacob.’ And yet, we need them to ask the hard questions, to challenge ourselves, and to basically help us grab hold of good things. Much like Jacob did, when he refused to release the angel until he was blessed. It calls into question how much of a role humility plays in our relationship with God at times. Jacob is demanding here, he is grabbing, he is insisting on something. Maybe there are times when we’re not supposed to be passive, or simply wait.

  7. OSS,
    It wasn’t until we cried out for deliverance from our slavery that God sent Moses. Until the daughter of Zelophehad spoke up against the injustice being done to their family, the injustice remained. Nadav and Avihu boldly came forward with a strange fire and died, Korach boldly declared everyone was the same before God and was swallowed up for his arrogance. So, I guess it’s always a tension, to know when to be bold and when not to be. Perhaps an analysis of the settings where boldness is rewarded and boldness is punished would be an interesting study to undertake at some point in time.

  8. Jacob is my favorite biblical character – his story is one I really like reading. The guy goes from a sort of mischeivous fellow (a trickster) to becoming someone the who is called Israel…it’s just the kind of redemptive story that many of us can relate to (as we grow older and wiser or whatever we become).

    This story in general always stays in my mind – Jacob makes it right with Esau and then this ‘wrestling event happens’ – it’s almost as if he paid his price (repented) to make things right with his loved one’s – and then he is given ‘a new name’ (which to me is the greatest blessing – a new respect of identity – a second chance almost). Who doesn’t root for Jacob in his story? Then we see the redemptive pay-off – it’s blissful in a way.

  9. This story in general always stays in my mind – Jacob makes it right with Esau and then this ‘wrestling event happens’ – it’s almost as if he paid his price (repented) to make things right with his loved one’s – and then he is given ‘a new name’ (which to me is the greatest blessing – a new respect of identity – a second chance almost). Who doesn’t root for Jacob in his story? Then we see the redemptive pay-off – it’s blissful in a way.

    I’m curious how you reached the conclusion that Jacob made it right with Esau before this wrestling since he didn’t meet Esau until afterwards. Is it because he sent gifts ahead?

    And perhaps old habits die hard. Esau invited Jacob to travel with him, but Jacob declines saying he needs to follow at a slower pace. Only he never follows. He takes off in the opposite direction from his brother and goes up to Shechem. Check out a map and see the locations of Edom and Shechem. It seems kind of doubtful Jacob was heading to Edom by way of Shechem.

    I think we do get wiser as we age, at least I hope so……my birthday is rapidly approaching….but in some ways we never really change do we? Should we? Are we the way we are for good reason? Maybe we still follow the same patterns only now we choose them on purpose rather just doing them as a kind of rebellion thing? Like Jacob traveling in the opposite direction knowing that was the only way his family would survive as a unique people? I wonder.

    Jacob is given a new name, but he isn’t called by that name. Torah still speaks of him as Jacob. My shul is called Beth Jacob, the house of Jacob, our prayers use the name Yaakov, not Yisrael. It seems like a strange blending of new and old, with the old still taking precedence?

  10. My bad Yael, I hadn’t read the story in a while and I took a quick glance before I posted and I thought Jacob had made up with Esau – but originally I also thought it was after (and I guess it is – thanks for confirming that).

    The story is even greater in my opinion then with Jacob ‘wrestling’ prior to making it square with Esau – because God still blesses him and Jacob still strives with God – even someone with such a checkered past can make right what they have helped make wrong – it’s truly redemptive on some level.

    “Maybe we still follow the same patterns only now we choose them on purpose rather just doing them as a kind of rebellion thing?” (Yael)

    Great point…I think this is rather true. We use the life given by God – just in a new direction. Instead of going to Shechem we take the path that will take us to Edom (even if we go the long way)…and we are still the same people – we have mistakes to make up for right now and purpose to want to do it. But Jacob does keep his name – and I think that is also interesting…we are who we are.

    The name change thing is interesting – in First Nations culture we have a similar tradition we still do – getting blessed with an Indian name. It’s that we have one name we are given by our parents and another given by our Creatot (and sometimes people just keep the Indian name for the child’s actual name). But it’s a cool tradition and it reminds me of the Jacob story also.

  11. Yael,

    **Perhaps an analysis of the settings where boldness is rewarded and boldness is punished would be an interesting study to undertake at some point in time.**

    I think it would be incredibly interesting. Because it leads me to wonder … are there things we are entitled to? If we’re in a bad situation, are we entitled to call upon God, to expect an answer, to demand that God be just?

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