Vayishlakh -- Genesis 32:4-36:43

jacobwrestling2nd-2American comedian Steven Wright is on to something when he asks:

Don’t you hate when your hand falls asleep and you know it will be up all night?

Jacob’s all-night struggle in Parsha Vayishlakh is something altogether other and remains an abiding inspiration.

In hope of a reconciliation with his brother, Esau, Jacob returns to the Holy Land after his twenty-year extended stay in Haran. While gifts and prayers are offered to appease his estranged brother, Jacob remains restless.

As he ferries his family and possessions across the Jabbok River, Jacob tarries behind and encounters the figure with whom he wrestles till daybreak. Jacob suffers a dislocated hip, but vanquishes this supernal creature who renames him as Israel, meaning “the one who struggles with the divine and prevails.” (32:29)

This new name, Israel, suggests Jacob was struggling with no ordinary being, not merely with his conscience or the archangel of Esau, but with the Divine itself. To really be present to the community of Israel, henceforth, is for every one of us to dare to be engaged in our relationship with the Divine as a holy “god-wrestler” like Jacob.

- Rabbi Glazer

Image credit: “Jacob Wrestling the Angel of God," 2009, by Jack Baumgartner, 1638