"The dawn is breaking."
"The darkest hour is just before the dawn." The old saw is well worn, but true, nonetheless, and never more so than when describing Yaakov avinu's - our father Jacob's all night wrestle with the angel who confronted him on the banks of the Yabbok river. The maxim, or at least the truth contained in it, predates the incident depicted in Genesis, chapter 32 by some thousands of years, as it describes the primordial six days of creation: "And there was evening and there was morning, one day." (Genesis 1:5) In other words, darkness before light. Similarly, Yaakov's prevailing against Esau's guardian angel and literally holding out for the first rays of a new day perfectly presages the descent of his children into the darkness of Egyptian exile, and their subsequent emergence from that spiritual blackness into the revelatory light of Torah, which they received at Mount Sinai.
We are rapidly moving to the shortest and darkest days of the year as we draw near to the winter solstice. But even this overwhelming darkness of the natural world is soon to be vanquished by the ever increasing bright lights of Chanukah:
"...You gave the mighty into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the few, and the defiled into the hands of the pure, and the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the malicious into the hands of those who engage in Your Torah. And You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your universe; and to Your nation, Israel, did You grant a great salvation and liberation, as on this day. And subsequently Your children came to Your holy abode, and they cleared out Your Palace, and they purified Your Temple, and they kindled lights in the courtyards of Your holy place. And they established these eight days of Chanukah in order to give thanks and praise to Your great name." (from the al hanissim Chanukah prayer)
Today again the forces of darkness seem to be closing in, just as the long night of 2000 years of exile for the nation of Israel seems to be nearing an end. Let us be strengthened by the example of our ancestor Yaakov, who despite the injuries inflicted upon him by the enemy, held fast to his dream of ultimate redemption for himself and for his progeny, declaring for all generations, "I will not let you go, until you have blessed me." (Genesis 32:27)
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the trials and tribulations of Yaakov avinu, the challenges that he, and we, have to face, and the upcoming Chanukah festival of lights.