This Parsha contains one of the most famous and enigmatic narratives of the lives of the Patriarchs: “Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the socket of his hip; so Jacob’s hip-socket was dislocated...Then he said, ‘Let me go, for dawn has broken.’ And he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘Jacob’. He said, ‘No longer will be said that your name is Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with the Divine and with man and have overcome.’ Then Jacob inquired, and he said, ‘Divulge if you please, your name.’ And he said, ‘Why do you inquire of my name?’ And he blessed him there. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, ’For I have seen the Divine face-to-face yet my life was spared.’ The sun rose for him as he passed Penuel and he was limping on his hip. Therefore the Children of Israel are not to eat the displaced sinew on the hip-socket to this day, because he struck Jacob’s hip-socket on the displaced sinew.” (Ber. 32:25-31)
Abarbanel begins by explaining the details of the struggle on a simple, primarily literal level, before he analyzes the exact nature of the prophecy and the deeper meaning of this encounter. He starts off by viewing this as an actual wrestling match between Yaakov and an angel, or messenger of
Now aware that the man is really an angel, Yaakov wants to know his name, i.e. his essence. Has
Before analyzing the deeper symbolisms of the encounter, Abarbanel examines the exact nature of the prophecy. He brings the Rambam, who says that this was a prophetic dream and not an actual physical encounter. If so, Abarbanel asks, how could Yaakov wake up with an actual physical injury? Granted, a dream can have a physical effect on the dreamer, e.g. a seminal emission as the result of a dream about a woman, or feeling pain after dreaming about falling from a great height. However, in this case Yaakov appears to have suffered an actual physical dislocation of his hip. This could not be the result of a dream, however prophetic.
As a result Abarbanel treats this incident the same way he did with the three angels who appear to Avraham in Parshat Vayera. Yaakov did not actually wrestle with an angel nor did he have a dream while asleep. Rather, the event never actually occurred in the physical world. Miraculously,
What were the profound messages that
The fact that Yaakov names the place “Penuel” is another indication that this vision occurred when he was fully awake. When a prophecy occurs during a dream, the venue does not merit a special name. This situation was much more unusual and awe-inspiring for two reasons. When Yaakov says, “for I have seen the Divine face-to-face”, he means that
Finally, the Torah tells us that for all time we are not to eat the displaced sinew of the hip-socket. This is to impress upon us with a mitzvah from Sinai the aforementioned doubly unusual and awe-inspiring prophecy. Even though the Jewish nation is “injured and lame” due to the struggle with Esav, ultimately it will triumph with the final redemption. As the prophet Micah states (4:6-7), “On that day, says The L-rd, I will assemble the lame one and gather in the one driven away and whomever I have harmed and I will make the lame one into a remnant and the one forced to wander into a mighty nation; and