“Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav.” (32:12)
Yaakov’s only brother was Eisav; why did he specify “The hand of my brother, the hand of Eisav”?Yaakov had two fears; physical and spiritual. Firstly, if Eisav and his army attacked him, he might be overpowered and killed. Secondly, if he became friendly with him, Eisav would be a bad influence on Yaakov’s family. Therefore, he prayed, “Rescue me from the hand of my brother,” that he should not harm them spiritually, through becoming a “brother” and good friend of the family. Also, he prayed that the vicious “hand” of Eisav should not attack and, G‑d forbid, physically harm the family.
The Gemara (Berachot 30b) says that when one is in the midst of prayer, even if the king greets him and inquires about his wellbeing or even if a snake is wound round his heel, he should not interrupt his prayers. In view of the abovementioned, this halachah can be explained metaphorically. Rabbi Shmuel Pesach Bagimilsky explains: “Throughout the long galut (exile), the Jewish people are confronted with basically two types of experiences: Sometimes we experience a seemingly benevolent government which expresses interest in our welfare and grants us equal rights. In other instances, governments encircle the Jewish people like a snake. We are oppressed, herded into ghettos, and suffer from the many restrictions placed upon us. Our wise sages are teaching us that, regardless how the situation appears, we should not disrupt our prayers. At all times we must continue to pray to Hashem that He liberate us from galut immediately.”
“And his eleven children.” (32:23) Rashi asks, “Where was Dinah?” Rashi gives the answer that she was hidden in a box and, therefore, was not counted. How does Rashi know that the reference to eleven children does not include the daughter Dinah? Perhaps it does not include one of the sons? The Kol Eliyahu comments: “One of the reasons why the Beit Hamikdash was built in Jerusalem on the land of Binyamin is that he was not born when Yaakov met Eisav and, thus, did not bow down to Eisav (Yalkut Mei’am Loez, Devarim 33:12). When Yaakov met Eisav, he had eleven sons and one daughter. If we should say that the eleven children included Dinah and one of the sons was hidden in the box, then that child would deserve that the Beit Hamikdash be built on his land more than Binyamin; because he was already born and did not bow down to Eisav, while Binyamin was not even born at the time. Therefore, Rashi knew that the missing child had to be Dinah, who did not get a share of Eretz Yisrael.”
“And Yaakov was left alone; and a man wrestled with him, until the break of the dawn. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh.” (32:25-26)Why did the angel wrestle with Yaakov and not with Avraham or Yitzchak? Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman explains: “The world stands upon three pillars: Torah study, service of Hashem (prayer), and acts of kindness. Each of the three patriarchs was the prototype of one of these pillars. Avraham excelled in chesed — kindness. Yitzchak was associated with prayer, as the pasuk states: “Vayeitzei Yitzchak lasuach basadeh” — “And Yitzchak went out to meditate in the field” (24:63). Yaakov was “ish tam yosheiv ohalim” — “a sincere man, dwelling in tents” (25:27). He spent his time in the “tents” of Torah. The “man” who wrestled with Yaakov was the angel of Eisav. He was the adversary of the Jewish people, and striving to bring about, G‑d forbid, their destruction. Of the three patriarchs he had little fear of Avraham because the continuity of the Jewish people (Yiddishkeit) cannot be contingent on acts of kindness such as building hospitals for the sick and homes for the aged. Nor can the posterity of the Jewish people (Yiddishkeit) be assured through people reciting their prayers on a daily basis. The secret of our existence is the study of Torah and teaching it to our children as soon as they are of age to understand it. Thus, by obstructing the study of Torah, the representative of Eisav hoped to jeopardize the continuity of the Jewish people. This battle is a never ending one, and even when unable to topple Yaakov himself, Eisav tries to “wrestle” with “kaf yereicho” — “the hollow of his thigh” — which represents the children and future generations of Yaakov. [When the Torah enumerates the family of Yaakov, it calls them “yotzei yereicho” — “[who] came out of his thighs” (46:26).]
Prepared by Devorah Abenhaim