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Parshat Vayishlach
by Dr. Israel Eldad, zt'l

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And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he limped upon his thigh (Genesis 32:32)
This night-time event stands in juxtaposition to the night-time event in the dream of the ladder. As he leaves the country, Jacob has a dream in the darkness of the night that is powerful and clear, divine, logical and to the point. As he returns to the country, Jacob is embroiled in a strange struggle in the darkness of the night. It is the G-d of Abraham who appears to him in the dream of the ladder but the G-d of Isaac who sends his angel against him in the struggle over the Yabok. The G-d of Abraham wants to raise him, to give him a mission while the G-d of Isaac seeks to subdue him and bind him. At this fateful hour, as he returns to the Land - and as we, his descendants, return with him - the great vision in his heart and the large amount of property and the many children in his hand, the two fundamentals struggle within him, the two fathers, the one with his head in the heavens and the other firmly placed on the earth. He struggles with people in the name of Heaven and he struggles with G-d in the name of the Land. He survives both by virtue of the strength of that dream of the ladder; he internalizes both the fathers within him, together. By the merit of this overcoming and this blending, he is awarded the name: Israel. Although this name incorporates the struggles of his past life and the fate of his sons in the future, he also himself completes with it the active part of his life. He mixes together the qualities of the fathers and bequeaths them to his offspring after him. And, together with them, also the limp with which he was left at the end of the struggle. And to this day we have not been healed of this limp. Even if Jacob himself arrived in the Land whole, as the sages, of blessed memory, put it: "Bodily whole and whole in his learning" (Tractate Shabbat 33b) and was apparently healed of his limp, it was not a permanent healing. Nothing from the heritage of the patriarchs disappears forever. Everything lives on in the depths of our natures and in our veins.

And this limp also. Sometimes we stride ahead confidently and securely, with truth and faith. At other times, we are hesitant and we are fearful, afraid of Isaac, afraid of Laban, afraid of Esau, afraid of the people of Shekhem. Our name is exalted and lofty, our name is Israel, and we have a great heritage and a great designation - but this limp causes us to lag behind others.

Contemplations of the Bible - Tel Aviv, 1986