The whole תורה, and ספר בראשית in particular, is replete with prophetic hints that indicate future events we are destined to experience. On a deeper level, by providing us with a precedent, these events in the תורה imbue us with the confidence and ability to overcome these recurring episodes throughout history.
A quintessential example of this trend exists in פרשת וישלח, when יעקב fought with שרו של עשו. The epic battle that exists between the children of יעקב and עשו until today begins with this fight. The circumstances change, yet every subsequent occasion of Jewish persecution, both spiritual and physical, stems from this moment in history.
We are familiar with physical clashes with our enemies – the murder and maiming of Jews during episodes like the Crusades and the Holocaust. Today there is hardly any such widespread physical subjugation of the Jewish community. Today, a spiritual battle that the secular world fights with us is extremely prevalent and dangerous. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who led the battle against Reform Judaism and assimilation in 19th-century Germany, explains that שרו של עשו tried to grab יעקב ‘s hip figuratively, i.e., to detach him from the foundation of תורה that he walked on and catapult him into a vacuum of space. The secular world consistently tries to do the same – to uproot us from our faith and thrust us into oblivion. And they do it in a non-obvious way, as רשי explains from the לשון of ויאבק [ish] עמו –, like חיבוק , a hug. The glittering facade of the duplicitous appeals of the secular world are so falsely alluring.
The clash of יעקב and עשו chases us throughout history, impossible for us to avoid. But ultimately, we, the children of יעקב, will come out on top. When יעקב ‘s name is changed, his new name, ישראל, indicates that he is triumphant over Man and מלאך. Therefore, because our forefather fought and won this battle for us, we are imbued with the spiritual and physical capacity to do the same.
The ספר החנוך explains that we have a מצוה today not to eat the גיד הנשה – not as a remembrance of this story, but as a constant reminder throughout history of what it represents. In this long and dark גלות, we must recall –ויזרח לו השמש – the sun of גאולה will rise again and we, like יעקב, will be healed from the oppression of עשו.
Although today, thank G-d, we don’t face the horrors of the Crusades or the Holocaust like our ancestors did, we must not let ourselves feel secure. From the recent “Kristallnacht” scare in Highland Park to the dumbfounding assimilation rates we face, this battle is indeed still alive.
Wherever we go, anti-Semitism will pursue us. But יעקב gave us the power to overcome it, and we will, as he did that night on the riverbank. He succeeded in overpowering עשו, until ויבא יעקב שלם , we will arrive complete and whole in triumph. May this long גלות end soon, and let the sun of גאולה shine once again במהרה בימנו !
Student Studying in MMY