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    A double camp – Vayyetzei

    Jacob's dream, illustration from the 1728 "Figures de la Bible"

    Changing of the angelic guard, from the 1728 “Figures de la Bible”

    At the end of the sidra, Jacob declares that a certain place is to be called Machanayim – literally, a double camp (Gen. 32:2).

    This place was the border post between Israel and the neighbouring land. As Rashi explains, basing himself on earlier rabbinic sources, it was here that there was a changing of the angelic guard – the Diaspora angels who had hitherto escorted Jacob were now replaced by the angels of the Holy Land.

    No human being is ever alone: God is with him or her, generally by means of the appropriate corps of angels. But the Diaspora angels have a different task to that of the angels of the Holy Land, because the challenges of each place differ as do its spiritual opportunities.

    The duality of Israel and Diaspora has marked Jewish history from ancient times, though the role of each partner is constantly changing.

    In the early days of the State of Israel the give-and-take between them generally showed the Diaspora as the givers, since Israel could never have survived without the material support of its friends in other countries.

    Now – in a spiritual and cultural sense – it is Israel that has become the dominant giver, and its influence on Jews in other lands is often one of their great mainstays.

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