The only way to weather life’s storms is to remember that God has a plan, even when curve balls come down the pike.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Vayeitzei” (Genesis 28:10–32:3) and in it we read about Yakov’s escape from home after “stealing” the Birthright (blessings of the firstborn), causing Esav to fly into a rage and declare his intent to murder his brother. Yakov escapes, and it seems that the immediate threat to his life has passed.
The Midrash, however, tells a different story.
The Midrash says that Esav sent his son, Elifaz, to run after Yakov and to kill him wherever he found him. Elifaz did indeed catch up to Yakov, and he was about to kill him just as his father commanded him to do. At the last minute, however, Yakov convinced his nephew Elifaz not to murder him with the following argument and compromise.
Yakov told Elifaz that according to Torah philosophy a poor man is comparable to a dead man. As such, Yakov told Elifaz to merely rob him of all his possessions, thereby rendering him poor and destitute. In this way, Elifaz could say that he complied with his father’s wish to kill Yakov without actually killing him! And so it was. Elifaz took everything that Yakov had, even his clothes, leaving Yakov with nothing. In this way, Elifaz fulfilled his father’s command.
The Midrash gets even more spectacular. We are told that Yakov was embarrassed about being been left naked so he made his way to the closest river so he could submege in the water and thereby cover his nakedness. We are told that while he was in the water, out of nowhere, an individual passed by and decided to take a swim in the water alongside Yakov.
The fellow got undressed leaving his clothes by the edge of the river and went in the water. Moments later the individual drowned and was swept away. Yakov now had clothes to wear! He got dressed and made his way to the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever where he immersed himself in Torah study for fourteen years.
Let’s put ourselves in Yakov’s shoes for a moment (even though had had none?!). There he was, forced to submerge himself in a river, naked, without any possessions. How could he even go anywhere to seek help? Most of us would run the other way–at best–if a naked man came towards us in the street. But Yakov had faith.
Yakov knew that God was in control, and if he was left alive, it must have been for a good reason. He knew that he certainly had a future ahead of him. He sat back (or maybe did the back stroke) and waited for God to work His wonders. As we see, God didn’t let him down.
The message is clear. When things get tough, we need to remember Yakov in the river. The only way to weather a storm is to remember that God has a plan. Everyone gets curve balls sometimes, even the great Yakov.
When those curve balls come we need to remain strong in faith. We have to remember that God has a plan. So even if you need to “float” for a while, be sure to remain strong. You’ll soon be “dressed” in your finest in no time.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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