Ahavas Sholom – an Historic Landmark and Sacred Space

Newark's Last Remaining Synagogue born of the Great European Migration at the turn of the 20th Century

145 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07104
Phone: 973-485-2609 | Email: cahavassholom@optimum.net


Simon Says, November 19, 2021

On the eve of crossing the River Jabbok (nowadays, Zarqa River in Jordan), Jacob wrestled with a man, presumably an angel.  Jacob bested the angel, and the angel pleaded with Jacob to let him (the angel) go.  Jacob responded, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”  The angel bestowed a blessing of sorts:  the angel changed Jacob’s name to Yisrael, meaning, “you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”

Some time later (and we don’t know the time lapse), God told Jacob (the Torah uses Jacob’s old name) to go to Bethel (the site of the ladder dream).  Jacob and his household went to Bethel and Jacob erected an altar.  God appeared to Jacob (the Torah uses the phrase “on his arrival from Paddan-Aram [which was many years ago]”) and God repeated the angel’s blessing:  you whose name is Jacob, you shall be called Jacob no more, but Israel shall be your name.” 

The Torah acts like God did not know that the angel bestowed an exact same blessing a couple of months (years?) ago.  An interesting article by Rabbi Tzemah Yoreh addresses that paradox.  You can find it at https://www.thetorah.com/article/jacob-is-renamed-israel-twice-why-does-the-name-jacob-remain.  That is not what I am addressing in this column.  I am addressing the three times that Jacob took advantage of a weaker opponent.

Jacob extracted Esau’s rightful blessing from a father who was blind.  Jacob padded his arms with pelts so he could resemble Esau, but the deception worked because Isaac was blind. 

The angel was fairly bested (not including weakening Jacob’s hip, analogous to Isaac’s blindness), but the angel was in a vulnerable position:  he needed to flee before the dawn.  Jacob extracted the angel’s blessing because the angel was blinded by the dawn.

Jacob deceives Laban about the sheep, because Jacob uses his superior knowledge as a shepherd.  Laban is blinded by ignorance, so he doesn’t see Jacob’s ploy.  Jacob takes advantage of his blind adversary. 

Blindness is a theme for Jacob’s struggles, and his adversaries’ blindness rewards Jacob.