Each week we feature a different outstanding Florida Rabbi.
Rabbi Eliot Pearlson
This week's Torah portion contains one of the Bible's most famous and dynamic stories, the narrative of Jacob's confrontation with an Angel of G-d.
Interestingly enough, not all commentators paint Yaakov's victory over the angel in so positive a light. Rashban explains that true to his name, Yaakov, which means heel or lowly, was planning to run away from his brother Esau. That is why he was alone when attacked by the angel.
In fact, the Rashban explains, Yaakov had a long history of running from his troubles. Yaakov ran from Esau when his life was threatened by his brother. When confronted with Lavan's trickery, he passively accepted it and didn't confront him. Even when it came time to leave his father-in-law's home, he left in the middle of the night without informing Lavan of his departure. Running away was Yaakov's modus operendi.
Furthermore, the Rashban explains, the angel that attacked Yaakov was not the emissary of Esau, rather it was Yaakov's very own protective angel!
Why did Yaakov's protective angel attack him? To teach him to stop running! There is a time to stand and confront one's demons, to fight the battle head on, and to face the forces of evil regardless of their strengths.
And so Yaakov's angel hit him in the hollow of his thigh, maiming him, so that he could no longer run but would be forced to stay and fight.
Sure enough, when Esau sees Yaakov it is as if he acknowledges that Yaakov deserves his respect. Yaakov stood toe to toe with Esau even though he came with 400 armed men, even though Yaakov is wounded, and further burdened with family and a large contingency of possessions.
Next Shabbas we begin celebrating Chanukah. History teaches us that there were two types of Jews 2175 years ago. There was one group of weak, assimilated Jews who gave into the Greeks and the Hellenists. They didn't confront or fight the great threat to our heritage. They ran from their responsibilities to our faith.
The other segment of the Jewish community stood up for Jewish sensitivities and fought the evil decrees of the Greeks. They stood proud and free in their resistance against tyranny and oppression of our People.
Are there any Hellenistic Jews today? Any synagogues called "Beth Antiochus", "Temple Anipoli" or Congregation Aristotle"? No. Running from our troubles guarantees failure.
To be a Maccabee means to fight against evil, to protect our Torah and Jewish heritage even if we are the few against the many, the weak against the strong, or the unpopular against the popular.
For when we as a people do so then we are worthy of our heritage. Then "Yaakov" -the lowly heel, becomes "Yisrael" -the warrior triumphant even over G-d.
We are called The People of Yisrael, our homeland is called the Land of Yisrael, and our law is called the "Torah of Yisrael". This is an eternal reminder to each of us to stand tall, be strong, fight against injustice, protect our heritage, our faith and our co-relegionists.
For when we do so we will become the modern day Maccabbees, worthy of the blessing of rebuilding the Land of Israel and the Temple of Jerusalem. Amen!