Parashat Vayishlach: "And He Limped on His Hip" (Bereshit 32:31)

[Tal Chermon]

Yaakov's limping is an essential element of his makeup and we, the Jewish People, suffered similar woes throughout our history. The Nation of Israel has had to struggle with heavenly and human forces throughout the long dark night of human history. We cannot be vanquished, we are victorious, but we pay a price. His and our stalwart erect stance is undermined and stoops throughout history. But we have not sunk to the level of Esav around whose thigh a snake is wound (See Targum Onkelos on Bereshit 25:27). Yaakov's thigh remains pure but is weakened and limping throughout his, our, history we have been subjected to ghastly tortures in successful attempts to subdue us, "But the Holy One Blessed Be He delivered us from them." The Ramban (on Bereshit 32:26) described it as follows: "This even [the dislocation of his hip] is a hint to Yaakov's offspring that there will be a generation when Esav [Rome] will prevail over us and will almost obliterate us, G-d forbid. This occurred in the generation of Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava, who suffered martyrdom for continuing the Rabbinic chain by giving Rabbinic ordination to his students, despite the Roman prohibition, and his companions who were Rabbis of the Mishnah…'In this generation of religious persecution they would take iron balls, heat them until they were white hot and then place them under the arm-pits [of their torture victims] and thus burnt them to death.' And there are other generations in which they have done such things to us and even worse (a hint to the times of the Christian Inquisition)." Also in our final revival, the birth of our modern State of Israel which illuminates our horizons after 2,000 years of exile was proceeded by a horrific "limp" and satanic outrages unparalleled in history.

We, however, are not frightened by these blows because we are an indestructible Nation. This is intimated by the verse concerning the attacking angel which states: "And he [the angel] saw that he could not defeat him [Yaakov]" (ibid. 32:26). The eternal Jewish People can be injured and maimed, but we are invincible and even eventually return to our perfectly healthy state. As the abovementioned Ramban concludes: "However, we have endured and come through it as hinted in the verse: 'And Yaakov came in peace'" (ibid. 33:18).