Falling Up - VaYishlach
Shlomo HaMelech wrote "Sheva Yipol Tzaddik Vekam" - "A tzaddik falls seven times, and rises" (Mishlei 24:16). We all fall. A tzaddik moves on even with his many falls.
Rav Yitzchzk Hutner suggests that rather than being a tzaddik despite falling down, a tzaddik is a tzaddik because of the times he falls and rises. In a letter to a student experiencing hard times, Rav Hutner developed the idea that achieving greatness is a process of overcoming and moving on. He explained that while we imagine righteous people being born righteous, it is more likely that they struggled greatly to become great.
"Ma'ayan Nirpas U'Makor Mashchat: Tzaddik Mat Lifnei Rasha"-"A righteous man falling down before the wicked: like a muddled fountain, a polluted spring" (Mishlei 28:26). Rabeinu Bachai cites this pasuk as ancillary to "Sheva Yipol Tzadik Vekam". A tzadik stumbles through encounters with reshaim. Just as a sullied spring re-invigorates and returns to its previous purity, so too a tzaddik collapses into the hands of a rasha but soon regains his glory.
Rabeinu Bachai offers these lines from Mishlei as an introduction to Parshat VaYishlach, and applies them to Ya'akov Avinu. Yaakov was temporarily humbled before Eisav; he showered him with gifts called him his master. In the end, Ya'akov departed unscathed from his encounter with Eisav.
The Sfat Emet notes that Ya'akov bowed before Eisav seven times (Breishit 33:3), an allusion to "Sheva Yipol Tzaddik Vekam". Using Rav Hutner's sense of the pasuk this can be understood to mean that Ya'akov not only fell and rose before Eisav, but the falling was part of his rising. This can be applied to all of the rough times Ya'akov went through.
In Ya'akov's lifetime as in seasonal cycles, Fall foreshadowed Spring. In the lives of individual Jewish people as in the life of the Jewish People as a whole, we fall to rise again. The road to Geula is paved with Galus, as our own personal exiles are roads to redemption. May we merit soon to see redemption for ourselves, our families, for all of Klal Yisrael, and for the entire world.