Wrestling Our Way Home: A Sermon for Erev Yom Kippur 5773

From my Erev Yom Kippur sermon last Tuesday:

I’ve often thought that there’s (a different Torah portion) that is just as appropriate – perhaps even more appropriate – for Yom Kippur.  I’m referring to the famous episode in the 32nd and 33rdchapters of Genesis, when Jacob wrestles on a riverbank with a mysterious stranger the night before he meets up with his estranged twin brother Esau.

Anyone who’s read or studied this text will attest that it’s a phenomenal story with deliciously rich spiritual symbolism.  Indeed, I often find myself returning to this portion for its insights on forgiveness, reconciliation and personal transformation.  All of which, of course, are central themes to the Yom Kippur holiday.

So on this Yom Kippur eve, please allow me to submit this story as an alternative Torah portion for your spiritual consideration. I hope its lessons will help us all engage more deeply in the spiritual work that lays ahead this coming new year.

Click below to read the entire sermon:

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Jacob Gets His Blessing

he tells him let me go the sun is rising but
jacob doesn’t hear all he hears is esau the elder esau the
stronger esau his father’s favorite who had eagerly
entered his father’s tent he’s hearing those awful
cries don’t you have a blessing left for me bless me
too father bless me too the words bursting out of
the tent please please bless me too
father over and over and over their bodies are writhing the
dark water splashing against the cold night air please bless
me too father bless me
he pins him against the slope of
the riverbank now jacob is screaming please bless me father he
shakes him like a limp rag doll sobbing i will not
let you go until you BLESS ME
the sun peeking over the jabbok jacob
looks down at his face and sees
his father beaming with love and pride at
long last his mother saying
it is safe to come home now my son his
brother saying seeing your face is like
seeing the face of god jacob blinks water
from his eyes the river is silent still mirror
clear he stands up sees the sun
and slowly limps his way across
the water

(Genesis 27:38, 32:25-27)