B’reishit, Chapter 32: Yaakov Wrestles with a Man

Yaakov discovered that Eisav was on his way to meet him.  In preparation, he divides his camp in two, prays, and sends gifts to Eisav.  Meanwhile, the night before his encounter with Eisav, Yaakov wrestles with a man.  Although he gets injured in his sciatic nerve, Yaakov ultimately triumphs.  When he requests a blessing from the man, the man renames him Yisrael.

כה. וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב לְבַדּוֹ וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר:

25: And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

The word for wrestled is “va-ye-ah-veik.”  Rashi explains that this word has two possible etymologies.  On the one hand, it is related to the word avak, meaning dust.  Such a struggle could indeed break a person into dust.  It is also, however, related to the word “hibeik,” meaning embraced.  The message is clear: there are two ways we can deal with our struggles.  They can either break us down into dust, or we can embrace them and allow them to lead us to new heights.  The choice is ours.

Rabbi Roy Feldman

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B’reishit, Chapter 32: Yaakov Wrestles with a Man

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