Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Dor Revi'i

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by Efraim Levine


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HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


5762
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And Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn (Bereishis 32:25).

Chazal note that generally the Hebrew word “ad” which is translated as “until,” can sometimes be interpreted to mean, “until but not including” and sometimes be interpreted to mean “until and including.” The posuk here says here that a man, who chazal identify as Esav’s guardian angel, wrestled with Yaakov until the break of dawn. We may ask, how do we interpret the posuk? Does the word “ad” here mean that they wrestled only until the break of dawn but not a moment after or perhaps it conveys that they wrestled until the break of dawn and after as well, as the word “ad” is sometimes interpreted?

It is noteworthy that Rashi here gives two interpretations for the word “va’yay’avaik,” which has been translated above as wrestled. Rashi’s first interpretation is that va’yay’avaik is derived from the word “avak,” i.e. dust. In our context this is interpreted to mean that the wrestling between that sar shel Esav and Yaakov was so intense that it brought up dust. Rashi’s second interpretation is that va’yay’avaik is related to an Aramaic word that means to be bound up in an embrace. In our context this is interpreted as meaning that to an observer it appeared as if the sar shel Esav and Yaakov embraced each other. Indeed, the nature of wrestling involves embrace.

Based on these two interpretations the Chasam Sofer offers a homiletic insight. We know that the enemies of the Jewish people have two strategies in their attempt to eliminate us. One approach is to openly destroy and thus reduce us to nothing. This approach is hinted to in Rashi’s first interpretation when he says that the word va’yay’avaik is rooted in the word dust. At times our enemies attempt to reduce us to dust. The other approach of our enemies is to eliminate us through assimilation. They embrace us and bring us near only so that we learn from their evil ways and defile our holiness. This approach is alluded to in Rashi’s second interpretation when he says that the word va’yay’avaik is related to the word embrace.

Perhaps we may use the homiletic interpretation of the Chasam Sofer to answer our question. Chazal teach us that whatever event happened for our forefathers is a sign for us. The posuk says that the battle of the sar shel Esuv and Yaakov extended until the break of dawn. This is a sign that the struggle of survival for the Jewish people will continue until the dawn of redemption. Now, if we interpret the word “ad” to mean, “until but not including” then we may suggest that the word va’yay’avaik is derived from the word dust. This indicates that in our struggle for survival throughout galus it is the wish of our enemies that we be reduced to dust. However when we interpret the word “ad” to mean “until and including” then this alludes to Rashi’s other interpretation where the word va’yay’avaik is related to the word embrace. This may then be interpreted as meaning that when the dawn of redemption arrives the nations of the world will recognize our superiority and not only will they cease from wishing to eliminate us but will even embrace us with sincerity.

 


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Efraim Levine 5761/2001