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Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: A Lame Excuse?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A Lame Excuse?

ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר...ותקע כף ירך יעקב בהאבקו עמו - 'and a man wrestled with him until dawn...and his hip-socket was dislocated when he wrestled with him.'

Once we are told that "a man wrestled with him", isn't the repetition - "when he wrestled with him" a little redundant?

The Ksav Sofer points out that Rashi gives two interpretations on the word ויאבק: firstly, the word is from אבק - dust - that they kicked up a lot of dust through their movements. Or שחבקו ואבקו בזרועתיו - that they were embracing with their arms (which is also an essential part of wrestling, of course).

The first interpretation is in line with the way that enemies fight with each other, whereas the second has echoes of the way that friends embrace. This is precisely what Chazal mean when they discuss Maaseh Avos Siman LeBonim (This is a principle that very basically, histroy repeats itself to people's descendants) - see last week's post by SG for another example: there are two ways in which the enemies of the Jewish people try to bring them down (as is famously noted by Chazal in a number of a places - מיד אחי מיד עשו - he needed to be saved from both aspects of Esau as we are about to discuss). The first is by harsh decrees, pogroms, crusades etc. But what happens when they try this? You only need to hear what the Mossad agent who caught Eichmann (according to some - Isser Harel) stated that Eichmann said upon his capture - שמע ישראל ה' אלקינו ה' אחד - Shema Yisrael!

When questioned about how he knew this, he testified- as did many other Nazis, that it didn't matter which type of Jew was in the gas chamber, this was the constant phrase on the lips of those holy martyrs. When oppressed, the Jew gets closer to G-d. This doesn't work for our enemies. So they try another way - they befriend us, influence us, try to make us one of them. Through this, says the Ksav Sofer, they make us be פוסח על שתי סעיפים - straddling both worlds, so that we have one foot in both worlds and thereby are not totally part of either one, making us unable to walk properly...hence the limp This is the second interpretation of Rashi - because the initial wrestling did not work in overcoming us, they resort to the embrace. Unfortunately, history has shown the second method to be deadlier, as it distances us from G-d. Through this ותקע כף ירך יעקב - the point of the Bris is dislocated!

Amazingly, what follows is ויזרח לו השמש - the sun shone for him - i.e. after the dark period which equates to the harsh treatment of Galus, they attempt the sunshine or friendly treatment. This is the bit that damages us the most and we are פוסח על שתי סעיפים - in two places. And - this is the best part - it is this which indicates the inability to walk properly, or the limp. What are the words which follow ויזרח לו השמש? That he had a limp on his hip, the area of the Bris that signifies are relationship with G-d!

Incidentally, this explains the reason he asked to be saved "miyad achi miyad Eisav", on the one hand the destroyer, on the other, his brother, how could he resist?

Geshmack !

I am indebted to my dear chavrusa Gav C for alerting me to this most beautiful idea. Let us hope that, although we all have our imperfections, we still have the strength to lead each other towards the real sunlight. Remember: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!

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