Article

Our confining Jacobs can be altered; our narrow perspectives can be changed. And if we can just re-ignite our inner face of Israel, our flame of G-d within, and engage relentlessly in deeds of goodness and kindness, we can rise beyond all of life's challenges, and bask in the light of G-d and in the grace of His embrace.

Rabbi Allouche

It is one of the great truths of life. We all have many faces; happy and sad, confident and insecure, relaxed and nervous, hopeful and hopeless. 

In this week’s portion, we are exposed to Jacob’s many faces too. The Talmud (Chulin 91b) reveals that when Jacob dreamt of angels ascending and descending a ladder, “the angels ascended to gaze upon the face of Jacob above; then they descended to gaze upon the face of Jacob below.”

In next week’s portion, we are also told that Jacob had a face for his first name, but he also had a different face for his other name, Israel. 

The face of Jacob below reflects our struggles that stem from our battles with all sorts of “Esaus”, from our inner demons and temptations to life’s trials and tribulations. 

On the other hand, the face of Jacob above and the face of his other name, Israel, reflect our deepest self, in which we are one with our Divine soul and are confident in our roles as G-d’s beacons of light and bastions of hope in our dark and broken world.

To always carry the heavenly face of “Israel,” is almost impossible. Perhaps, this is why the names of Jacob and Israel in the Torah are interchangeable. Most of us carry both the faces of Jacobs and Israels throughout our lives, alternating between these two identities.

However, the goal is to put on more “Israel” faces than “Jacob” faces. And the objective is to invest all of our energies and efforts toward unleashing our Divine soul, and all of its light; actualizing our infinite potential; realizing our G-d given talents and skills; and engaging in uninterrupted deeds of goodness and kindness, even when our Jacob-like mentality and mood may seek to disrupt us.

At times, we may see ourselves as struggling “Jacobs” destined to live a life of hardships, from within and from without. Our minds may then be conquered by despair. We may even say to ourselves, “this is the way we were born, and this is the way I will always be.”

But our confining Jacobs can be altered; our narrow perspectives can be changed. And if we can just re-ignite our inner face of Israel, our flame of G-d within, and engage relentlessly in deeds of goodness and kindness, we can rise beyond all of life’s challenges, and bask in the light of G-d and in the grace of His embrace.

A few years ago, I remember asking Rachelle Fraenkel whose 16-year-old son was murdered by evil terrorists in Israel in the summer of 2014, how she finds the strength to smile every day. Her courageous answer moved me deeply: “I feel pain,” she said, “but I don’t have to become my pain. And that’s why I smile.”

Rachelle Fraenkel chooses every day, to allow her “Israel face” to triumph, even though the “Jacob face” may make an appearance from time to time. If she, who experienced such an unfathomable tragedy, can do so — so can we.

So, have you unleashed your Israel-face yet today? Have you performed a Mitzvah? Have you risen above and triumphed over all that may be pulling you down?