Split Camp: Coming to Terms with Trump?

As we will see in VaYishlach, this week’s Torah portion, Jacob splits his family and live stock into shnei machanot– two camps- as a defensive measure in preparation for confronting his long estranged brother Esav. Under the cover of darkness Jacob sends the two camps over the river and then returns back over the river. As we all know too well. There is where he faces an angel by himself and wrestles till day break. There we read:

Vayivater Yaakov Livado vaYe’avek Ish imo ad  olot haShachar. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. (Genesis 32:25)

Rashi explains that the verb vaYe’avek is connected to the word avak– dust. As to say that they wrestled and got all dusty.

As well as we know the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel, we often forget where it all happened. As we learned in VaYetzei, last week’s Torah portion, this happened in  Machanaim. It was there in Machanaim that Jacob resolved to return home. It was there in Machanaim that Jacob split his family into two Machanot– camps. It was there in Machanaim that Jacob realized the value of small things (See Rashi ad loc). It was there in Machanaim that Jacob wrestled with the angel. It was there in Machanaim that Jacob stopped running or could not run any more ( see hip injury). It was there in Machanaim that Jacob realized who he was. It was there in Machanaim his name was changed from Jacob to Israel.

We are so focused on his name and our name being Israel that we overlook the plain meaning of the text. This story of Jacob’s  travel to Machanaim  is in the context of his reconciliation with his estranged brother Esav. Before the Rabbis get to him, Esav seems like a really good guy who got manipulated out of his role as eldest and chosen child. While we repaint Esav as bad,  Jacob was the one in the wrong.

Is it possible that the name of this place being duel encampment has nothing to do with his strategic splitting of his wives and children, but instead of rift that existed between Jacob and his brother Esav? It was there is Machanaim that Jacob realized the work he needed to do to make peace with his brother. Is so doing  in Machanaim that Jacob became Israel. When we figure out how to include the marginalized elements of our family who we have wronged we too become Israel at Machanaim . The place of inclusion is surely Machaneh Elokim– God’s camp.

For many of us, we feel like Esav in that the election for the next president of this country was stolen. Every day that does by as Trump is putting together his administration we see how our larger camp is going to be split up. The lines of struggle are clear, what is not clear is how he will reconcile the two camps of Americans. While I will never grow in my tolerance of illegal and unethical actions at some point I hope to grow in appreciation for Trump’s presidency. To the victor goes the spoils, but also the responsibility of bringing peace to the camp.


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