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    Complete three times – Vayyishlach

    shalem“And Jacob came to Shechem complete” (Gen. 33:18).

    He had struggled with an assailant who injured him. The wound healed and Jacob recovered. Rashi says he reached Shechem shalem b’gufo, shalem b’mamono, shalem b’torato – “complete in his body, complete in his purse, complete in his Torah”.

    The first two “completes” we understand. Despite the struggle he survived physically and financially. What about his Torah?

    He could have lost his faith in all his vicissitudes. He could have lost interest in his Torah study. He could have weakened in his observance of the commandments. He could have become a macho hunter like Esau, concerned with physical pursuits and the excitement of the chase.

    He resisted the temptation and remained complete in his religious life.

    Not everybody can be a Jacob in this respect. Trials and tribulations can have a disastrous effect on one’s personality and spirituality. It is unfair to criticise those who can no longer be religious.

    On the other hand, it is amazing to see that some people are able to emerge complete in their Torah. They themselves would probably say that it was because of their Torah that they survived at all.

    I recall a noble scholar who emerged from the Holocaust as a good Jew and years later published his Sho’ah diary. He told me which Hebrew verse he wanted at the beginning of the book and asked me for a translation.

    The words were, “Had Your law not been my delight, I would have died in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92).

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