The New Shul

Parshat Vayishlah

This week’s parashah, Vayishlahtells the story of how Yaakov became Yisrael, the father of the Jewish people. After wrestling all night with a heavenly being and suffering an injury that would leave him with a limp, Yaakov received his new name. The Torah explains that the name “Yisrael” comes from the Hebrew root that means to “to struggle.” But there is an ancient rabbinic interpretation of the name that traces it to a different Hebrew root, “Yashar,” which means upright or straight.

It is ironic that Yaakov would be called “the upright one” immediately after he begins to limp. Why is it that at the moment of his brokenness, we are told that he stands straight?

Perhaps the rabbis were offering a deeper understanding of what it means to stand upright. Sometimes we reach our full  height as human beings when we are most conscious of our fragility and vulnerability. Our sense of mitzvah grows from the awareness of our insufficiency — as the rabbis taught: “All of God’s best tools are broken.”  It is when we recognize that we are not whole in ourselves that we feel called upon to make the world more whole. And it is then that we stand straightest.

  • Due to the Covid pandemic, The New Shul’s Shabbat morning service now takes place outdoors and off-site, on the grounds of the Sandpiper School, 6724 E. Hearn Rd, from 9:30 to 11:30 am on Saturday mornings. Please use the west parking lot and come around the back of the school. Everyone is welcome (for social-distancing purposes, you might want to bring your own chair). Please dress for warmth and comfort. Informal attire is fine.
  • This Shabbat, December 5, we will celebrate the bar mitzvah of Vincent Trotta. The kiddush will be sponsored by the Trotta family.
  • Other than our Shabbat morning service, all other New Shul events continue online. They include: Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday afternoons (4:30 pm this Friday), lay-led Shabbat morning services (10 am this Shabbat), Havdalah (6:15 pm this Saturday night), daily text study, and weekly classes.