Sign In Forgot Password

Rabbi's Blog: The Challenges of Yaacov / Israel

12/02/2022 12:59:01 PM


Dear OZ family,


This is the first of three parshiyot where Yaacov faces challenges , set upon him by three individuals. This week, in Parshat Vayetze, is Lavan. Next week in Parshat Vayishlach, is Esav, and in two weeks, Parshat Vayeshev will introduce further grief for Yaacov, regarding Yoseph. The first letter of the three names together, in Hebrew, spell “Alay”. This is the very word that Yaacov’s mother, Rivkah used when assuring him that he would come to no harm as a result of standing in for Esav’s blessing.


Lavan and Esav represent two challenges to Yaacov from beyond his inner circle. Lavan means white or clear, and Esav’s other name is Edom, which means red. Lavan is considered the villain of the Haggadah (Bikesh Lavan La’akor et Hakol), but his hatred is not clearly recognizable . He threatens Yaacov with harm (Bereshis 31:29), and only refrains from doing so because of God’s intervention (31:24). In contrast, Esav’s hatred is as bright as his name, (Edom), and while he ends up not harming his brother, Esav comes to meet Yaacov with 400 men, giving the impression that he intends harm.


In the end Yaacov prevails against both these threats and arrives back home “Shalem”, (33:18) in a state of safety, security, and shleimut. The third letter of “Alay”, though, caused Yaacov much more grief than the threats coming from outside his inner circle. That letter stands for Yoseph, and is a reminder to all of us of the importance of resolving our own internal squabbles and turmoil. If we do so, the external threats will usually fall away the same way Yaacov emerged whole from his confrontations with Lavan and Esav.    


Let us commit to finding the good within everyone around us in shul, looking away from anyone’s faults. Let’s be magnanimous with the opinions of others, and optimistic that if we are internally sound, that we can face any challenge, and may our sustenance come form God’s open and generous hand.


I draw your attention to a particular challenge that requires our action. Last week two men made serious threats to New York and New Jersey synagogues and were caught with materials to act on their threats. One is now in jail, and incredibly, the other is free, and actually lives right here in our neighborhood. I called attention to this outrage to our local politicians, and I am told that the second person, named Matthew Mahrer, has a court date this coming Wednesday, Dec. 7th. Manhattan’s District Attorney needs to hear from us that this man’s threats are as plain in sight as the color red, and that we expect the heavy hand of justice to come down upon him, as a clear sign for others who share his venom. You can contact Alvin Bragg at


To state that there is no room in our city for such hatred, and that anyone who makes threats the way he did, should not be free to act on his hatred.


Please join me in wishing Mazel Tov to Jake and Helen Guz on the birth of Avigayil Perel to their children, Stephanie and Jake Rimberg.   I wish everyone a peaceful and restful Shabbos.

Stay well and healthy.


Rabbi Allen Schwartz  




Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street | New York, NY  10025-6604

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200 | Fax 212.663-3635



Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784