Torah Tuesdays with Hennie Black-Parshat Vayishlach

Torah tuesdays
parshat vayishlach

By Hennie Black

Each week NCSY Canada’s Jewish family experience (JFX) program brings lessons of the weekly parsha to JFx moms with “torah tuesdays,” a class currently delivered online by Jfx director hennie black.

this parsha blog series allows us to bring one highlight from the torah tuesday class to a wider audience. 

we hope that you enjoy its insights and use its lessons throughout the week as we approach each shabbat’s torah reading.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayishlach, there is a famous episode of Yaakov, our forefather, wrestling with a “man.” Yaakov, alone and vulnerable, wrestles throughout the night until daybreak, at which point he and the “man” separate, but not before Yaakov is hurt in his thigh and he walks away limping.

Who was this man? Some commentaries explain that the “man” was none other than Yaakov’s conscience or higher soul, as he struggled internally trying to figure out who he was and his purpose/mission in life.

Up until this point, Yaakov was a man who avoided conflict. In fact, he ran away from it. But at this moment, he could no longer run; he had to face the “man” in front of him. He had to face himself, having no choice but to fight and engage in a struggle for the ages. Yaakov overcame the struggle and came out triumphant.

Rabbi Soloveichik tells us that the exact nature of the conflict between Yaakov and his opponent is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is that Yaakov actually engages in struggle…for it is the struggle, not the outcome, which is paramount. In fact, the name given to Yaakov at the end of the struggle is Yisrael – meaning someone who has fought with the Divine and has overcome.

To live a life of meaning involves struggle. Indeed, it is precisely because it is not easy that our struggle becomes meaningful. As the children of Yisrael (Yaakov), as well as the patriarchs and matriarchs, the Jewish people must engage in that effort to bring meaning and purpose to our lives.

Yes, it is so much easier to be complacent and satisfied with the status quo, but we must wrestle with ourselves to become better each and every day, to reach new heights and new strengths that we did not know we had within us.

We are taught that the stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs have set the framework for our lives. As the children of Yaakov, we are imbued with the courage, strength and ability to overcome. Yaakov implanted within our DNA the ability to face our challenges head on.

This episode represents the arc of Jewish history. As we march through history, we encounter, time and again, challenges that we have to overcome. As a people and a nation that is vulnerable, there are times that we walk away limping. When Yaakov walks away triumphantly at the break of dawn, we are afforded a signpost for history and know that we too will experience a victory when the sun rises with the final redemption.

For those wishing to join Torah Tuesdays over Zoom, please contact Hennie Black at

To find out more about NCSY Canada’s programs, visit