This Parsha this week is Parshas Vayishlach. The Parsha tells us of the historic meeting between Jacob and Esau, after twenty two years of being separated. Before Jacob and Esau actually meet, however, there is first an encounter and struggle between Jacob and the angel of Esau. The Torah tells us that this “man” fought with Jacob “until the morning star arouse.” At that time the angel requested from Jacob, “Send me for the morning star has arisen.” (Genesis 32:25). Jacob refused until the angel would bless him, and thereupon the angel informed of a new name that would be bestowed upon him – Yisroel or Israel, instead of Yaakov or Jacob.
As the Sages tell us, the entire episode of Jacob meeting Esau is a sign to ensuing interaction that will arise between the children of Jacob and the descendants of Esau. One lesson right away that is taught, is that the struggle will not end until the morning will come – that is until the coming of Messiah. Until that time, even if we win a battle, a war, or overcome a calamity, we are still facing the adversity of Esau. Only when the “morning star arises”, when the Messiah is here, can we say that the physical struggle with Esau is over.
A second lesson is that after all Jacob’s prayers, after all his efforts, he still had to face an adversary as strong as the angel of Esau. This teaches us that despite our best efforts, the spiritual struggle is always facing us. The evil inclination is always trying to get us to sin, and to get us to lose opportunities to do good things. We must always be on the lookout for him and be prepared to fight him.
The Talmud explains, what was the angel’s request, “Send me for the morning star has arisen”? Of what significance was it that the morning star had arisen? The Talmud explains, that the angel was telling Jacob that he had a specific job to do exactly at this moment; of all the angels in heaven, it was his job to say shira, the praises of G-d, exactly, at this moment. What does this mean? Did it just “happen to be” that it was the turn of this particular angel at this particular moment to say this shira – praise to Hashem?
When is it time for an angel to say shira,/i> – praise to Hashem? When he finishes his job in this world. What the angel of Esau was saying, was that his mission in this world had just been completed. He was here in this world just to challenge Jacob. When the angel tried to do this and failed, his job in this world was over. Now he had to go back to heaven and say shira – praise to Hashem.
What was the difference between the name Yaakov – Jacob as opposed to the name Yisroel – Israel? Yaakov – Jacob is a name given to an individual. Yisroel ,/i>– Israel is a name for the entire Jewish people. The change in name was not just a formal one: The blessing Jacob got was that from now on he would no longer be an individual person, but a great and special nation. We are not “Jacobites” but Israelites; We don’t live as individual people just thinking of ourselves, but as Jews, part and parcel of a holy people that is focused on serving G-d together as a people.