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Shalom Aleichem: Potential

When Jacob wrestles with the angel, the angel asks him to release him. Jacob says: “I will not let you go unless you bless me”. The angel’s response is to switch his name from Jacob to Israel

(Vayishlach, 32: 27-29).

The transition from Jacob to Israel is what allows him to fully express his potential. It is only as Israel that Jacob can become who he is meant to be and establish the Jewish People.

This transformation is at the core of the angel’s blessing.

What do we mean on Friday night when we sing “barchuni leshalom”, “bless me for peace”? Angels don’t have the power to bless; they reflect the reality that we create.

If they find a home ready for Shabbat, the good angel says: “May it be God’s will that it also be so next Shabbat”. The evil angel is compelled to answer “Amen” (Shabbat 119b).

The angels’ blessing is not a miraculous prayer which will bring about magical benefits. However, it can act as a catalyst for actualizing one’s latent potential.

One who has prepared himself to greet the Shabbat and have a taste of the World to Come can expect to transcend his reality and expand it even more the following Shabbat.

A Jacob who has gone through a life-altering process can become an Israel.

And as we all ask for the angels to confer blessings upon us, we must envision what we desire to become and dream of the goals we want to achieve; their blessing can propel us on the journey of self-realization.

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