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Parashat Vayishlach ("and he sent")

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Brit Chadashah

Nov. 28, 2015
Kislev 16, 5775



Gen. 32:3-36:43
[Table Talk]

Obadiah 1:1-21

Heb. 11:11-20;
Matt. 26:36-46


Read the Summary

God-Wrestling and Faith...

Our Torah portion this week contains the story of how Jacob "wrestled" with the Angel of the LORD just before he encountered his estranged brother Esau. During the "grappling" session (recall the meaning of Jacob's name), the Angel injured Jacob's thigh, but Jacob refused to release his hold until he received the blessing (הַבְּרָכָה). The LORD then asked him, "What is your name (מַה־שְּׁמֶךָ)?"  And he said, "Jacob" (i.e., Ya'akov: יַעֲקב). The Angel then replied, "Your name shall no longer be Ya'akov ("heel holder" [of Esau]) but Yisrael ("contender with God"), for as a prince (sar, שַׂר) you have contended (i.e., sarita: שָׂרִיתָ) with God and with men and have prevailed" (Gen. 32:28).

Jacob's story teaches that before we can return from our place of exile, we have to face our fears and wrestle over who we really are with God. Each of us must be renamed from Jacob to Israel, from being a manipulator to one who surrenders to God's power and blessing. Just as Jacob finally prevailed with God when the power of his faith overcame the pain of his past, so we can escape from our own exile - the prison of our past - by proclaiming from the heart: "I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered" (Gen. 32:30).

Note:  For more information, please read the Torah summary page for Vayishlach and its related articles. You can also download the Shabbat "Table Talk" for the portion here:

Chanukah:  Dec. 6th - Dec. 14th

On the Biblical calendar the month of Kislev (כִּסְלֵו) is the ninth of the year (counting from Nisan), and also one of the "darkest," with the days progressively getting shorter and the nights getting longer. Indeed, the Winter Solstice often occurs during the last week of Kislev, and therefore the week of Chanukah (which straddles the months of Kislev and Tevet) often contains the longest night of the year. It is no wonder that, among other things, Chanukah represents an appropriate time to kindle the lights of faith - and to remember the Light of the World in the Messiah's advent to earth...

The Hebrew word Chanukah (חֲנֻכָּה) means "dedication" and marks an eight day winter celebration that commemorates the victory of faith over the ways of speculative reason, and demonstrates the power of the miracle in the face of mere humanism. Although it is customarily observed as a "Festival of Lights," Chanukah is a "fighting holiday" -- a call to resist the oppression of this world and to exercise faith in the LORD.

This year the eight days of Chanukah begin on Sunday, December 6th at sundown (1st candle) and will run until Monday, December 14th at sundown. The tradition is that on the first night of Chanukah one flame is lit, on the second night two, and so on until the eighth night when eight flames are lit. In this way we remember the 'growth' of the miracle.

Blessing before Torah Study:

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Some terms:

  • Parashah is the weekly Scripture portion taken from the Torah. Each parashah is given a name and is usually referred to as "parashat - name" (e.g., parashat Noach). For more information about weekly readings, click here.
  • Aliyot refer to a smaller sections of the weekly parashah that are assigned to people of the congregation for public reading during the Torah Reading service. In most congregations it is customary for the person "called up" to recite a blessing for the Torah before and after the assigned section is recited by the cantor. For Shabbat services, there are seven aliyot (and a concluding portion called a maftir). The person who is called to make aliyah is referred to as an oleh (olah, if female).
  • Maftir refers to the last Torah aliyah of the Torah chanting service (normally a brief repetition of the 7th aliyah, though on holidays the Maftir portion usually focuses on the Holiday as described in the Torah).  The person who recites the Maftir blessing also recites the blessing over the Haftarah portion.
  • Haftarah refers to an additional portion from the Nevi'im (Prophets) read after the weekly Torah portion. The person who made the maftir blessing also recites the blessing for the Haftarah, and may even read the Haftarah before the congregation.
  • Brit Chadashah refers to New Testament readings which are added to the traditional Torah Reading cycle. Often blessings over the Brit Chadashah are recited before and after the readings.
  • Mei Ketuvim refers to a portion read from the Ketuvim, or writings in the Tanakh. Readings from the Ketuvim are usually reserved for Jewish holidays at the synagogue.
  • Perek Yomi Tehillim refers to the daily portion of psalms (mizmorim) recited so that the entire book of Psalms (Tehillim) is read through in a month. For a schedule, of daily Psalm readings, click here.
  • Gelilah refers to the tying up and covering the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) as an honor in the synagogue.
  • Divrei Torah ("words of Torah") refers to a commentary, a sermon, or devotional on the Torah portion of the week.

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