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Are we meant to be comfortable with ourselves?

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“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” Bereishit 32:24

It was the great American leader and Rabbi, Joseph Soloveitchik, who asked, in his seminal work The Lonely Man of Faithn whether loneliness can be either the Kierkegaardian anguish – an ontological fear nurtured by the awareness of nonbeing threatening one’s existence – or the feeling of loneliness solely due to my own personal stresses, cares and frustrations – or even the result of pervasive state of mind of Western man who has become estranged from himself, a state with which all of us Westerners are acquainted?

Whatever kind of loneliness Jacob was experiencing at this stage in the Bible, what we can’t argue with is the influence this scene has had on humanity and the Jewish people. One of my favourite artistic depictions of this episode is the 19th century French artist, Leon Bonnat’s evocative depiction of the struggle – in which the physicality of the struggle is clear. In me, it defines the intensity of the scuffle.

In Jewish thought, the encounter between Jacob and Esau is a representation of something larger… The fight is between two diametrically opposed philosophies and ideologies. Jacob, remaining alone, signifies the way Jacob appears alone throughout history. The Jewish people are the nation that have remained separate throughout the course of our history. Our dietary laws, our Sabbath and our clothing have historically distanced us from our neighbours.

The symbolism of Jacob’s epic struggle alone throughout the darkness is seen by some as emblematic of the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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