“I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps.”—Genesis 32:10
The Torah portion for this week, Vayishlach, which means “and he sent,” is from Genesis 32:4—36:43, and the Haftorah is from Obadiah 1:1–21.
This week’s Torah portion begins with a fear-filled Jacob. He was on his way back home with his family, knowing that a confrontation with his brother Esau was unavoidable. It had been 22 years since Jacob had fled Canaan because he feared his brother would kill him after he discovered that Jacob had posed as Esau to get their father’s blessings. Esau was a dangerous and powerful man who could easily slaughter Jacob’s entire family. Jacob was shaken to the core.
And so, as we should all do at times of intense fear, Jacob prayed.
Toward the beginning of Jacob’s prayer, he said, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” In Hebrew, the verse begins with the word “Katonti,” which literally means “I am small.” Jacob reflected upon his smallness, his inability, and his unworthiness. How is this an appropriate way to prepare for his biggest life challenge so far?
A few years ago, popular Jewish singer-songwriter Yonatan Razel was riding the waves of fame when tragedy struck. His daughter, Rivkah, fell off the roof of the family’s Jerusalem home while watching the Independence Day fireworks. Rivkah was unconscious for weeks, and at times, it seemed that there was almost no chance that she would ever wake up. Yonatan describes the day that things turned around. His brother had left him a note that said, “Have you prepared for the great miracle that God has in store for you today?”
Yonatan says that the note shook him, and he understood deeply that each day is a miracle from God for which we must be grateful. Yonatan understood that just as God performs miracles for us daily, even while we are undeserving, God could bring about the miracle that he needed most on that day. And on that very day, hope prevailed over despair, and Rivkah took the first significant steps that ultimately led to her complete and miraculous recovery.
Serendipitously, just before Rivkah’s accident, Yonatan had composed a new song with the words of Jacob’s prayer: “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” Like Jacob, Yonatan came to realize that while he was small, God was big – and that’s what gave him strength.
Friends, when we realize how small we are, we recognize how great our God is. We realize that it is God, not us, who protects and provides for us every day. We need not despair in the face of great challenges. Just as God performs countless miracles for us every day, He can bring about the miracle that we need most on this very day.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President