Upon departing the house of Laban, our father Jacob will encounter his hateful brother Esau.
One might think that after twenty years Esau would accept that he did not receive the blessings from Isaac; yet, messengers report back to Jacob that Esau is approaching with four hundred generals and intends to kill Jacob.
Jacob vaults into action and prepares for battle physically, spiritually, and psychologically. He prays to G-d for protection, he sends a super-gift to Esau to placate him, and he also divides the family strategically so that if the battle ensues, everyone will be in the safest position possible. Then something incredible happens: Gen 32:23.
וַיָּ֣קׇם בַּלַּ֣יְלָה ה֗וּא וַיִּקַּ֞ח אֶת־שְׁתֵּ֤י נָשָׁיו֙ וְאֶת־שְׁתֵּ֣י שִׁפְחֹתָ֔יו וְאֶת־אַחַ֥ד עָשָׂ֖ר יְלָדָ֑יו וַֽיַּעֲבֹ֔ר אֵ֖ת מַעֲבַ֥ר יַבֹּֽק׃
וַיִּ֨קָּחֵ֔ם וַיַּֽעֲבִרֵ֖ם אֶת־הַנָּ֑חַל וַֽיַּעֲבֵ֖ר אֶת־אֲשֶׁר־לֽוֹ׃
וַיִּוָּתֵ֥ר יַעֲקֹ֖ב לְבַדּ֑וֹ וַיֵּאָבֵ֥ק אִישׁ֙ עִמּ֔וֹ עַ֖ד עֲל֥וֹת הַשָּֽׁחַר׃
וַיַּ֗רְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָכֹל֙ ל֔וֹ וַיִּגַּ֖ע בְּכַף־יְרֵכ֑וֹ וַתֵּ֙קַע֙ כַּף־יֶ֣רֶךְ יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּהֵאָֽבְק֖וֹ עִמּֽוֹ׃
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שַׁלְּחֵ֔נִי כִּ֥י עָלָ֖ה הַשָּׁ֑חַר וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אֲשַֽׁלֵּחֲךָ֔ כִּ֖י אִם־בֵּרַכְתָּֽנִי׃
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו מַה־שְּׁמֶ֑ךָ וַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַעֲקֹֽב׃
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לֹ֤א יַעֲקֹב֙ יֵאָמֵ֥ר עוֹד֙ שִׁמְךָ֔ כִּ֖י אִם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כִּֽי־שָׂרִ֧יתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים וְעִם־אֲנָשִׁ֖ים וַתּוּכָֽל׃
That same night he arose, and taking his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children, he crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After taking them across the stream, he sent across all his possessions. Jacob was left alone. And an angel wrestled with him until the break of dawn.
When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him.
Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
Said the other, “What is your name?” He replied, “Jacob.” Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with an angel and man and have prevailed.
It is remarkable that amidst Jacob’s struggle with the angel, he does not let go until he receives a blessing. He is not satisfied with simply surviving the angelic attack. He also wants to transcend the experience and walk away with a blessing!
What a great lesson! When we face adversity, our goal is not only to get through it, but also to grow from it, which will in turn become a blessing.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat filled with blessings,
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence