So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. — Genesis 32:24
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.
Scripture tells us that the night before Jacob encountered his brother Esau, he was left alone. But how is that possible? Just two verses before, we read that Jacob took his entire family and all his possessions across the river Jabbok. Wasn’t he surrounded by his wives, his eleven sons, and all his servants?
The Jewish sages teach that after crossing the river, Jacob went back over to the other side in order to retrieve a few small jugs and jars that he had mistakenly left behind. That’s how he ended up alone, and that’s when he encountered the man who wrestled with him until daybreak.
Let’s put this into perspective. By this time, Jacob was an extremely wealthy individual. What was he doing crossing a river, on what could be the eve of a catastrophic war, in order to get a few inexpensive and easily replaceable items?
The Jewish sages explain that to Jacob, all things – even the most insignificant things – were valuable. Jacob understood that everything created in this world has a purpose. Everything has meaning. Everything has value. It doesn’t matter how much it costs or how replaceable it is. Everything that God has placed in our lives has something to add to our lives. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be there.
Sometimes the lesson we need to learn from the objects in our homes is that there is a time to throw things out. Sometimes we need to learn to part with material objects or learn to move on. But for the material items in our lives that do function properly and serve a purpose in our lives, we should have respect and treat them accordingly. In a society where almost everything is disposable, we need to pause and remember that everything has value.
This week, let’s devote some time to taking an inventory of our possessions with fresh eyes. What purposes do they serve? What can we learn from a pair of shoes or a glass? How can we use what we have to serve the Lord?
When we take the time to appreciate the value of our possessions, we will treat them with greater respect. And we will become worthy of God’s respect because we acted with honor.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President