We all struggle. While adults often think of children as having charmed lives, they often struggle to control the raging and contradictory emotions within them. Children don’t yet have the tools that adults have to manage their passionate emotions, and so their wrestling can be particularly intense. At the same time, adults struggle to manage relationships, a household, finances and professions.

Jacob, in this week’s Torah portion, struggles mightily. Alone in the middle of the night, separated from his family and possessions, he encounters a stranger. Commentators say it is a divine messenger. They wrestle until dawn. The stranger, before leaving, gives Jacob a new name, Israel, which means “one who struggles with G-d”, and then blesses him. The people who are descended from Israel are called by his name.

This story illustrates that struggle can lead to change and personal growth. We can help our children to wrestle with what they are struggling with themselves. By modeling struggle ourselves, rather than keeping our vulnerability under raps, we can show that struggle strengthens rather than diminishes.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about what they can learn from how Jacob worked hard to overcome his struggle.


  • What do you struggle with?
  • What helps you in your struggles?
  • How can I help you resolve and work through your struggles?
  • How may we work together as a family?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.