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    Standing up for God – Vayyishlach

    The sidra explains how Yaakov’s name was changed to Yisra’el.

    The new name is a compliment, usually translated as meaning “prince of God” or “champion of God”. It can also be rendered “wrestler with God”.

    Maimonides draws our attention to the grammar of the name and says the initial yod makes it a future tense. The events which led to the new name took place in the past, but the future tense indicates that whatever the word means it implies a duty for the future.

    Is Yaakov – symbolic of every Jew – going to stand up for God?

    It is a task which continues to the end of days. We cannot sit down and sit out the duels. We cannot say we are tired and the job is too wearying. Not until history comes to an end can we afford to relax.

    If the word means “wrestler with God” we likewise cannot abdicate. It is never going to be easy to live with God when we are never quite certain what He is and what is His agenda and timetable. We have to say with Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him… but I will argue my case before Him.” (Rashi re-interprets the verse to say, “I will not be separated from Him and will constantly hope in Him.”)

    Job is told by his “friends” to curse God and be rid of his God-problem. We in later generations hear the same thing – “Give up religion, forget God, drop your Jewishness!” We won’t… and we can’t.

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