By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
In this week’s parashah, Yaakov fought with the angel of Eisav. The pasuk says “vayivaser Yaakov levado, v’yeiaveik ish imo ad alos hashachar.” And Yaakov remained alone and he fought with an angel until the dawn. At the end of the fight Yaakov emerged victorious and he asked the angel for a blessing. The very berachah that Yitzchak gave to Yaakov was that whoever blesses him would be blessed, so in asking the angel of Eisav for a blessing, he was in effect giving a blessing to Eisav. Why would Yaakov want to give such a blessing to Eisav? It seems therefore, that he did not actually seek a blessing, rather he was asking about the blessings, the ones given to him by Yitzchak, to confirm that they really applied to him as the firstborn. (Sfas Emes)
At this point the angel wanted to take leave of Yaakov because it was his turn to sing shirah to Hashem for the first time. R’ Chaim Soleveitchik explains that an angel sings shirah when it carries out its purpose. The job of the angel of Eisav is that of the Satan. This angel goes around trying to persuade people to sin. Until now this angel had always been successful, but while his job was to challenge people with sin, his true goal was that those he challenged should not give in to temptation and truly not be swayed. With Yaakov, it was the first time the angel had succeeded. When faced with the yetzer ha’ra (evil inclination) it is important to remember that he wants to lose the battle, and we should want him to lose it too.
The reason that Yaakov had been alone to start with is because he crossed back over the river having forgotten pachim ketanim, some small vessels. One would think that he would just leave them and move on, yet we see that it was important enough to him to retrace his steps and go back to get what he had left behind. To tzaddikim, every tool they are given is there to help them serve Hashem; from the smallest can of tuna to the biggest sefer in their house, they view it all as keilim in their avodah. Due to that, a tzaddik will not want even something minor to go to waste, because it can detract from his avodah in some way. (Rabbi Shimon Newhouse)
This applies to everyone. Every kli a person is given is a tool in his/her avodah. When a person can live their life with a focus on the fact that they are here with a task to accomplish, they will take greater notice of the little things and how they all fit into the big picture of their avodas Hashem.
There is another beautiful idea about the pachim ketanim that is explained by R’ Yaakov Weinberg. He says that when a person owns an item, they feel a level of control over it. When Adam and Chava were sent out of Gan Eden, Chava named her son Kayin, from the lashon of kanisi. Her intention with that name was that she acquired a human being along with Hashem. In Gan Eden there was no such concept of acquiring a possession; there everything existed in unlimited quantities. Chava realized that for the world to run smoothly people would have to take possession of items. She foresaw that the need for possessions could become an obsession, and for this reason she wanted to set the tone from the start, that possessions are jointly owned with Hashem. Ownership has to be of a higher calling, with a spiritual nature at its core.
Yaakov recognized the spiritual aspect of the ownership he had over his possessions, so he did not take them for granted. When we own items, do we recognize that there is a spiritual component to the ownership, that it is a joint ownership that we share with Hashem? Would we chas v’shalom choose to own something that Hashem would not be interested in having joint ownership of? Do we perhaps fall prey to the obsession that Chava foresaw could exist in this post-Gan Eden world? Or, do we realize that every item, from our house to our car to our shoes, can all be used to further our avodas Hashem, and we possess them for the sole sake of furthering our spiritual selves?
Aside from the bearing this way of thinking has on marriage, with respect to viewing everything in life as a tool to assist us in our service of G‑d, on a deeper level we must also understand that our spouses, the very people we have met and chosen to marry, also represent an opportunity for us to come closer to Hashem and deepen our service to G‑d. While many things in life present as challenges and even difficulties within marriage, just as with any test, there simply is no challenge before us that was not orchestrated for our benefit, our growth, and designed to be in our life for our ultimate success and complete good in mind.
We must come to a realization that Hashem guides every aspect of the world, and even when we think we are in control, we aren’t; Hashem truly is. We live in an amazing world where our Father in heaven watches over us ever so closely. If we can come to appreciate that aside from a mere recognition of the good within our spouses, that we are also leading a life guided by Hashem who wants us to succeed, we can imbue higher levels of sanctity and holiness into our marriage and all aspects of our family life. v
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.