In this week’s Parsha, we read about an intriguing event. Ya’akov is preparing to face Eisav when suddenly he is confronted with some kind of strange being. He is forced to wrestle with him until dawn. Chazal explain that this man represents “The Sar of Eisav”, Eisav’s angel from the heavens. When Chazal say this, they are not referring to Eisav the man, Ya’akov’s twin brother. They are referring to what Eisav will represent throughout history. The Eisav who embittered the Jewish nation throughout history. Starting with the Greeks and Romans through the Christians of the middle ages, Nazi Germany until today’s Islamic terrorism. The Jewish people were forced to wrestle with these enemies and have always managed to prevail. Chazal teach us an important lesson when reading the stories in Bereishit. “Maase Avot, Siman Lebanim”. The actions of the fathers shall be a sign for the sons. Meaning we can learn from these stories not only the story itself but also a lesson for all of history.
Strangely, Ya’akov is not willing to release this being without having it bless him. Another oddity is the fact that the angel asks for Ya’akov’s name. If this is really some sort of heavenly being shouldn’t it know Ya’akov’s name?
The Chasidic Rov of Piasetzna in his book “Eish Kodesh” explains the following: When Israel prevailed, just as Ya’akov did, it was not enough just to get rid of the specific problem. The Jewish nation has always known how to utilize hard times for their own benefit. Growth and advancement were achieved through hardship and suffering. Ya’akov would not let him go until he actually gained something from this struggle. He forced the angel to bless him. This is a form of acknowledgment given to us by the fiercest of our enemies. The angel then goes on to ask for Ya’akov’s name and symbolically changes it to Israel. Unbelievably, this explanation was give by the Piasetzna Rov in the midst of the holocaust, (hence the title of the book “Eish Kodesh” – the holy fire, weekly Parsha sermons given in the Warsaw ghetto). He did not live to see his prophecy become a reality.
Not only did the Nazi plan to annihilate the Jewish nation fail, the holocaust drove the Jewish nation to establish the State of Israel. The state that has the same name given by that angel of Eisav to Ya’akov. The acknowledgment of the nations for the Jewish people’s right for a state in the landof Israel.
Unfortunately, our troubles did not end with the establishment of the state of Israel. We are still fighting for global recognition of the just and superior morality of the Israeli state. But if we are to learn from our forefather Ya’akov, as Chazal taught us, we will be able to surpass any difficulty till the day that dawn shines upon us and the entire world will understand the true meaning of our name: ‘Israel’. No longer shall we be known as ‘Ya’akov’ – named for grabbing Eisav from behind, we shall be ‘Israel’ – those who fought and have prevailed. “For you have striven with the divine and with man and have overcome”.