In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, we learn what it means to be of the People Israel. This in turn deepens our relationship with the Divine. In the text, Jacob wrestles throughout the night with a mysterious figure–an angel representing God. Jacob reigns victorious in the encounter. He is given the new name Isra-el, “One who wrestles with God.”
What exactly does it mean to be a “God Wrestler?” I’m sure we all have our own interpretation and our own felt experiences.
At a time when there is so much in the world that is perplexing, disturbing, seemingly unjust, it is reassuring to know we are in a relationship with the Holy One where it is okay to question and push back.
When I think of God wrestling, I am reminded of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. He is in an authentic and intimate relationship with God–one where he struggles, and asks, and demands, and kvetches, and pushes, and questions, and requests, and haggles.
God does not want us to exercise blind faith. On the contrary, God wants us to be deeply involved in the relationship and to always be pushing on the boundaries. And it’s okay, because we know the relationship can withstand the struggle. It’s okay to be critical and to not always accept things as they are. Given this, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak truth to power–even to the power most High. Our railing against heaven may not affect the change we want. However, as a people, we are strengthened in our quest for truth and justice.
Am Israel Chai! The People of Israel live! The People who wrestle with the Divine are enlivened! May we be worthy of this name inherited from Jacob.