Composition Department

Joshua Groffman, DM 2012

For You Have Struggled With God and With Men

Performed by the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Conducted by Carmen Helena-Téllez

     III. Jacob wrestles with the angel

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     II. Jacob sees the past and the future

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For you have struggled with God and with men presents three scenes from the life of the Biblical patriarch Jacob, drawing its texts from the book of Genesis. The narrative of Jacob's life shows a high degree of subtlety and nuance in presenting the psychology and actions of Jacob, and these pieces aim to reflect this, tracing Jacob's development as a person over the course of his long life.

In Jacob's dream, we see him as a young man, talented, destined for greatness, and a little cocky. Jacob sees the past and the future finds him older and close to despair, unsure of the worth of his own achievements and fearful for the future of his children and their descendants. Closure is found in Jacob wrestles with the angel; after a long night of turmoil, Jacob, renamed Israel, departs with a new and deeper sense of his relationship with God and his fellow human beings.

Although the three pieces form a narrative arc, any one movement may be performed independently, showing Jacob at a particular moment in his journey towards wisdom. The settings are dramatic and are intended to tell Jacob's story as vividly as possible. Translations of the Hebrew texts are included with this score that the performers may more fully engage with the words they are singing. Translations by Joshua Groffman, with the exception of the passage in which Jacob foretells the futures of his children, which is reprinted from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, edited by W. Gunther Plaut. (Copyright © 2005, 2006 by URJ Press. Reprinted with permission of URJ Press.) Transliterations from Orach Chayim Torah Study & Resources.