Shabbat Greetings from Stuart Skolnick – November 15, 2013

Stuart SkolnickJacob and Esau, Darwin’s Finches, Deena and Shechem, Machu Picchu, wrestling with an angel, Ollantaytambo – what could all of these items have in common? If we think about this week’s Torah reading and I can add in a few comments from my recent vacation, perhaps we’ll find some connections.

In another of Genesis’ fully packed parashas we find the stories of Jacob’s reunion with his brother after twenty years of separation, his nighttime encounter and wrestling match with an ish, a man who is usually interpreted as an angel, Deena’s encounter with Shechem and its aftermath followed by the stories of Rachel’s death giving birth to Benjamin, and the death of Isaac. Two overarching themes that we find here are transformations and interpersonal relationships. Jacob is forced to confront his past as he prepares to meet Esau, is transformed after he wrestles with what? His conscience? An Angel? God?  Deena is forever changed after her encounter with Shechem and relations between Jacob and his sons and his neighbors are also altered by this episode. Benjamin’s birth at the cost of Rachel’s life and Isaac’s death drive our narrative toward the next chapters of our history.

My wife Anita and I were fortunate to travel recently to the Galapagos Islands where the sight of Darwin’s Finches along with sea lions, iguanas, and of course, tortoises reminded us of the beauty, frailty, and nature of change in the animal kingdom. The transformations of these species allowed them to survive for us to see them in their natural environment. After that we saw man made wonders in Peru and heard the stories of how these came to be. Plenty of human drama, conflict, and change here as well.

At the end of the video of our Galapagos trip our Expedition Leader reminded us to look for opportunities to preserve wildlife in our own home environments. Similarly, while we can appreciate the stories in each week’s Torah reading, our real challenge is to apply the lessons we find there to our lives today. I hope that each of us can find beauty and meaning in our natural and our spiritual environment and that those can enrich our lives.

Shabbat Shalom!

Author: Melissa