Friday Candle Lighting: 4:29PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:27 PM
A Minimal Attention Span
“Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.” (32:25)
We live in an era of distraction. Television advertising and music video driven by big BPM (bucks-per-minute) have accelerated the cutting rates of film and video to the microsecond. The ubiquitous cell phone interrupts thoughts, conversations and lives. Many do not think anymore — just surf through their thoughts. Now this and now this and now this. How long can a normal person hold an idea in his head? Everyone is invited to try it. Whoops? Try again! How long can the average person concentrate on an idea without any other thought intruding? Ten seconds? Twenty? Twenty is pretty “Olympic” in my own experience.
In this week’s Torah portion, an incorporeal spiritual force (trans. angel) attacks Yaakov and wrestles with him until the dawn. This angel was the protecting force of the nation of Esav. Why did the angel of Esav not attack Avraham or Yitzchak? Why did he wait for Yaakov?
This world stands on three pillars: On kindness, on prayer and on Torah. The three Patriarchs represent these three pillars: Avraham is the pillar of kindness, Yitzchak, the pillar of prayer, and Yaakov, the pillar of Torah. The Torah is the unique possession of the Jewish People. No other nation in the world has the Torah. Therefore, an attack on Torah is the one that hits at the heart of Judaism.
The angel of Esav attacked Yaakov because he knew that the most effective way to destroy the Jewish People is to deter them from learning Torah.
Even though the angel of Esav was unsuccessful in his fight with Yaakov, he managed to damage him in the thigh. The thigh is the place in the body that represents progeny and the continuation of Jewish continuity. In the era before the arrival of the Mashiach, Esav will try to make it very difficult to educate our children with Torah. Torah demands commitment, application and concentration. The essence of Torah study is to be able to contain several ideas in one’s head and to synthesize and counterpoint these ideas. A distracted person cannot learn Torah. Our era is one in which distraction has become an industry.
In the generation before the Mashiach in which we currently find ourselves, maintaining a minimal attention span will be a gigantic battle in itself. May we all be successful with the help of Heaven.