Striving with an Angel

Nov 22, 2015

וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַיִּקַּח אֶת־שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת־שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו וְאֶת־אַחַד עָשָׂר יְלָדָיו וַיַּעֲבֹר אֵת מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק׃

That same night he arose, and taking his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children, he crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

Genesis 32:23

עַל־כֵּן לֹא־יֹאכְלוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר עַל־כַּף הַיָּרֵךְ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה כִּי נָגַע בְּכַף־יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב בְּגִיד הַנָּשֶׁה׃

That is why the children of Yisrael to this day do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the socket of the hip, since Yaakov's hip socket was wrenched at the thigh muscle.

Genesis 32:33

Overnight, Jacob rises and crosses the Jabbok river with his family and belongings. Jacob is left alone, however, at some point in the night, and spends the rest of it striving with a mysterious opponent. The two wrestle throughout the night, and Jacob’s opponent cannot overcome him. At daybreak, the mysterious stranger inflicts a serious wound in Jacob’s thigh, yet Jacob does not relent.


The stranger asks Jacob to release him, but Jacob refuses unless his opponent blesses him. The stranger asks Jacob his name, then tells him he shall be henceforth known as Israel, for he has struggled with man and God and has prevailed. When Jacob asks for the stranger’s name, however, he refuses to give it, and Jacob realizes he has met an angel. He calls the place Peniel, meaning Face of God, in recognition of the fact. As a result of Jacob’s injury, his descendants to this day do not eat the sciatic nerve of any four-legged animal.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Jacob asks for a blessing, and we are told instead he is given another name. How can you explain this unusual “blessing”?

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