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A Three Pronged Winning Strategy

Friday, 15 November, 2013 - 1:54 pm

history.jpgWar seems like it’s around the corner and hundreds of heavily armed fighters are ready to attack at any moment with tremendous firepower. People are unsure what to do and no one seems to know how to handle the terrifying situation that is looming ahead.

This is not a scene from Syria this week or from the Iranian Nuclear weapons program, rather it’s the opening scene of the Torah Portion which we will be reading this Shabbos in synagogues around the world. In the portion, Jacob who has just left behind one adversary who sought to destroy his family, is about to reenter the land of Israel to settle there with his family. As he prepares to do so, he receives word that his brother who hates him and wants to murder him, has heard he is coming and is headed over with four hundred heavily armed fighters to destroy him and his entire family.

Many would have run or surrendered, yet Jacob knew that the destiny of the Jewish people was dependent in the outcome of this confrontation. Will it be defeat and the end of the mission that was begun by Abraham & Sarah, will it be a stalemate, or will it be a turning point and a place to go forward from and continue to grow.

Jacob decides to stay and take on the challenge, but he does so in a manner that would prove decisive and enduring for generations to come. Jacob plans his response in a multi pronged approach and plans on using a combination of three tactics to overcome the challenge and adversary he was about to face.

Jacob starts out with his first track, a prayer to G-d that he help him succeed in the challenge that lay ahead of him. Secondly, Jacob prepares for battle and he divides his camp into several groups and prepares to fight it out, even though he dreaded the thought of having to go to battle. Thirdly, Jacob tries some diplomacy and sends over some gifts to his brother Esau to see if he could appease him and have him calm down without having to actually go to war.

While preparing for the confrontation, Jacob faces an attacker, an angel of Esau. Jacob is caught in a savage fight that rages all night long and threatens to end Jacob’s life. Sunrise brings an end to the fight, as an injured Jacob finally subdues Esau’s angel and causes him to surrender. Jacob survives and is given a new name, Israel, which means he has struggled and overcome.

Ultimately, Esau himself has a temporary softening of his heart and makes peace with Jacob when he finally meets up with him. They each part their ways and they can now move on with their lives.  

The Modern Reflection of Jacob's Battle

Jacob’s battle may have occurred 3700 years ago, yet nevertheless the timeless message of the story is as relevant today as it was back then.

We are often faced with challenges and with difficulties, sometimes they are internal and part of our own inner dynamics, sometimes they are external and to do with the environment in which we live, and sometimes they are external and about actual enemies who want to see us finished off.

In this story, Jacob teaches us a timeless lesson in how we can best succeed in overcoming these struggles. Jacob showed us that it is not usually by one method alone, prayer by itself, diplomacy by itself, and battle by itself are never truly enough to truly overcome our challenges and our adversaries. Instead, we are required to embrace a three pronged approach which collectively contain the ingredients for true success.

·         First and foremost, we must realize that G-d at the center of our success and our strength, and connecting with G-d and identifying with G-d through prayer, Torah Study and doing Mitzvos are a cornerstone of our strength and our ability to succeed.

·         Secondly, we can prepare some diplomacy, which sometimes may mean that we need to be a little creative in figuring out how we are going to accomplish what we need to in life, and perhaps we have to think out the box in order to find the solutions and what it takes to achieve what we need to as Jewish people.

·         Thirdly, sometimes we have to be prepared for battle and challenges. Sometimes, for whatever reason, our challenges won’t just melt away; our adversaries won’t just sink into the shadows, and sometimes sticking to who we are as Jews isn’t so comfortable. Yet to truly succeed, we have to be willing to fight and to stand up for ourselves and others, and we have to be willing to stand strong and not compromise on what is right and wrong. It may not be so comfortable, but without our willingness to be strong when needed, there is no true guarantee of success.

Hershel the Shoemaker

There is a story told of a merchant called Hershel who owned a tiny shoe store in Manhattan way back in time. One day a huge Macy’s opened a shoe store to his right in the building next door, and before he knew it another massive shoe store opened to his left. His tiny shoe store which measured no more than a few boxes of shoes was now surrounded and overshadowed by these monster shoe stores who threatened to wipe him out of business.

The shoe store owner was at his wits end and was on the verge of closing up shop. Yet before he does so, he decides he will discuss the situation with his Rabbi. The Rabbi hears the story, thinks for a minute or two and then tells him to change the sign on the top of his store, and instead of saying “Hershel’s Shoe Store”, it should now say “Enter here for the Shoe Department”.

No is not the only option!

No isn’t always the only option, and yes is sometimes the only option. The challenge is not how to say no, rather it is how to make it happen and figure out a workable solution. Judaism may not always seem so easy and it may have its challenging moments when rejection and saying no are the easy thing to do. Yet Jacob teaches us, that while a little more difficult, our job and capability is much greater than just “no” and rejection, and in truth, we are mandated and empowered to succeed and our challenge is merely to figure out the how!

As we read about Jacob and his challenges, we are reminded that as Jacob’s descendants we are empowered to succeed just like he did, and just like Jacob we have been endowed with the strength to deal with the challenges and opportunities that life brings us. When we succeed we are not only Jacob’s descendants, we are also Israel’s descendants, as we have challenged, fought and overcome!

Good Shabbos


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