Shabbat Shalom: Be Like Jacob. Be Like Hagar

Sep 25, 2020 | Article

Shabbat Shalom: Be Like Jacob. Be Like Hagar

Blessed are You our God, Creator of the universe, who opens [the eyes of the] blind. 

This daily prayer speaks to our blindness to the ills within ourselves and to those in our midst and the hope of being attuned to that which we cannot see.

Ours is the season of Teshuvah, the time of repentance, the period in our yearly rhythm when we take stock of ourselves and the previous year and contemplate self-improvement. 

This Shabbat, Shabbat Shuvah, I encourage you to shake yourself into new discovery. Take one small step towards a better tomorrow. 

Be like Jacob. Full of fear, guilt ridden by his deceit, alone in the desert and away from all that is familiar to him and all that is safe, Jacob sees the only source of comfort available to him—stones on which to rest his weary head—and there on the cold soil, begins to understand his own mortality. Humbled, lowered to the ground, sleeping on stones, Jacob dreams of angels ascending and descending a ladder. Shaken from his solitude and open to the discovery, Jacob finds consolation and comfort in a strange place and within the embrace of God.

Be like Hagar. Having been escorted out of camp by Abraham, Hagar is shaken loose from her futile retreat within herself. Blinded by her own pain, incapable of seeing the promise of another day, and desperate for water, Hagar knows that she and her son Ishmael are doomed by death’s approach. Hagar sets Ishmael down and moves away, lest she witness the death of her child. She cries out, and God lifts her eyes to water, to sustenance.

Teshuvah is the distinctively unique human ability to ever improve. The ability to learn old lessons anew and to return to a place free of cynicism and full of mercy.

Teshuvah represents a return to wonderment. It is the sustained pursuit of goodness within one’s self and in this world; it is the prayer of the heart, the sight of the eyes, the steps of the feet, the act of bringing peace into our world.

May we all find the strength to look deep within, open our eyes, gaze upon that which was once imperceptible, and be strengthened for the work ahead.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO