17 Kislev 5773 / Nov. 30 - Dec. 1, 2012
“To see your face is like seeing the face of God.” – Jacob to Esau
This week’s portion begins with Jacob preparing to see his brother Esau after 20+ years apart. As you’ll recall, after stealing Isaac’s blessing intended for Esau, Jacob fled in order to avoid Esau’s wrath. Now, a few wives, a dozen children, and massive amounts of property later, Jacob finally has to deal with his past, as he learns that Esau is coming towards his camp with 400 men (seemingly to attack).
Jacob sends gifts ahead hoping to quell Esau’s anger, and then takes precautions by dividing his camp in two – hoping that if one half is attacked, the other will have time to escape.
The night before his meeting with Esau, we find the famous story of Jacob wrestling with an angel. After Jacob emerges victorious, the angel changes his name from Jacob to “Israel” (hence we’re the “Children of Israel”).
The next morning Jacob and Esau finally meet, and to Jacob’s surprise, Esau is full of love for him.
In response, Jacob says to his brother: “To see your face is like seeing the face of God.”
How do we deal with this statement? Jacob had literally just wrestled with an angel the night before! You’d think that this kind of statement would have been reserved for the divine being he encountered rather than for his human brother.
We learn in the Torah that humankind was created in God’s image. Perhaps Jacob’s encounter with the angel, juxtaposed with his reunion with Esau, revealed to him just how similar we really are to divine beings?
How do our actions change – specifically as it relates to how we treat others – if we can really begin to see ourselves as reflections of the Divine?
Even if you don’t believe in God in the traditional sense (or at all), can we change how we look at other human beings in order to see each individual as unique, beautiful, and worthy of our love?
This Shabbat, reflect on how you interact with others. Strive to see the innate beauty and special energy that every human being possesses. Approach your relationships and interactions from a place of love and warmth, as if every human interaction is truly one between you and the Divine.