Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
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by Efraim Levine

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


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When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the ball of his thighbone; and the ball of Yaakov’s thighbone become dislocated as he wrestled with him (Bereishis 32:26).

In this week’s parsha we learn how the guardian angel of Eisav wrestled with Yaakov. After the angel perceived that he was unable to defeat Yaakov he dislocated his thighbone.

Chazal teach us that whatever happened to our forefathers is a sign for us. The wound that the guardian of Eisav inflicted on Yaakov has major significance for us today. Chazal offer many interpretations. One approach is that this act symbolically represents the damage done to the supporters of Torah. Just as the thighbone that supported Yaakov was damaged, likewise historically the support of Torah would be weakened and achieved only with great difficulty and hardship.

In a similar fashion The Ramban explain that this refers to the generation of shmad, the turbulent time in Jewish history were many were Jews were forced to abandon their heritage due to severe persecution by the descendants of Eisav.

By drawing from the major commentaries let us attempt now to offer another homiletic interpretation into the significance of the harm inflicted by the guardian angle of Eisav on Yaakov.

The Sh’lah Ha’Kodosh notes that the Hebrew word yerech (thigh) has three letters. They are, yud, reish and chaf. They stand for yam (sea), rakiah (heaven) and kisei (throne). He continues to explain that the word yerech alludes to the techeiles, wool dyed with an extract of the chilazon that produces a royal blue color. The Gemarah teaches us that the color of the techeiles is similar to the color of the sea and the color of the sea is similar to the color of the heaven and the color of the heaven is similar to the color of the throne of Hashem. We learn from here that with regard to the techeiles, the sea, heaven and throne play important roles. Being that the word yerech has the first letters of these three words, we derive that there is a relationship between the two. The Sh’lah HaKodosh continues to develop this idea in his own way. We will borrow from him just this basic concept that there is a relationship between the word yerech and techeiles.

The posuk says that the guardian angel struck the “kaf ha’yareich.” Rashi translates the word kaf as the socket of the hip. However other commentators (Marpei Lashon) translate the word as “corner.” In this context it means that the guardian angel struck at the corner or edge of the thighbone. The proof comes from the targum who translates this word similar to the way he translates the word “pa’as” in the expression “pa’as zik’un’chah” which simply means the corner of the face or beard.

It emerges that the word yerech is related to techeiles and the word kaf is related to the corner. Although the techeiles was used in the construction of the mishkan and as part of the special clothing of the kohanim, the only place where we find the techeiles in connection to a corner is the mitzvah of tzizis. The Torah says “and they shall place upon the tzizis of each corner a thread of techeiles (Bamidbar 15:38).

We may now suggest a new homiletic interpretation of the posuk. When the posuk says that the guardian angel struck at the kaf ha’yareich it may be interpreted as meaning that he dislodged the thread of techeiles that was tied to the corner of Yaakov’s garment. Chazal tell us that our forefathers observed the entire torah before it was given. Certainly, Yaakov wore a four cornered garment with tzitzis and techeiles. Yaakov’s techeiles was the casualty of his encounter with the guardian angel of Eisav. What we now need to know is why did the guardian angel of Eisav dislodge specifically his techeiles? What is the significance of this? What is the relevance to us?

In our times of galus we do not have a Beis Hamikdash. Due to its absence there are many mitzvos that we are unable to perform. However all other mitzvos that are not dependent on the Beis Hamikdash are observed in their entirety. There is however one exception, the mitzvah of techeiles. The reason we do not practice this mitzvah has nothing to do the absence of the Beis Hamikdash; it is due solely to fact that we no longer can identify with certainty the chilazon from which the techeiles is produced. The identity of the chilazon was lost due to severe persecution the Jewish people suffered at the hands of the descendents of Eisav over one thousand years ago.

Indeed, the commentators teach us that the absence of the techeiles in our time is hinted in the Torah. The mitzvah of tzitzis has two parts, the white threads and the techeiles. With regard to the white threads the Torah says “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them that they shall make for themselves tzitzis on the corners of their garments throughout their generations” (Bamidbar 15:38). The Torah emphasizes that the mitzvah of tzitzis will be observed throughout all their generations. However, in connection to the techeiles the Torah says “and they shall place upon the tzitzis of each corner a thread of techeiles (Bamidbar 15:38). Here the posuk omits mention of “throughout their generations,” intimating that in our history we will not merit to have techeiles in all generations. It may be noted that although many observant Jews today wear techeiles derived from the cuttlefish (Radzyner), Janthina snail (Rav Herzog) or the Murex Trunculus, the consensus of the Halachik authorities is that it is only used out doubt not out of certainty for they lack the verification of tradition.  

In order to further understand the relationship between the “kaf ha’yareich” and the techeiles we need to explore another approach to the encounter of the guardian angel of Eisav and Yaakov.

We simply translate the words “kaf ha’yareich” as the socket of the thighbone. However some of the commentators understand this to refer to the bris milah, the reproductive organ of man. The commentators further explain that the word yerech (thigh) when translated as the bris milah is a euphemism for the sanctity of Jewish marriage and the abhorrence of the severe sin of forbidden relationships and all immoral extensions of these laws.

When the guardian angel of Eisav attempted to harm Yaakov, he was only permitted to physically harm him if he found a spiritual flaw. After a whole night of inspection the only sin the angel could find was that Yaakov married two sisters, a law the Torah prohibits. Although this was not considered a real sin because the laws of the Torah had not gone into effect before matan Torah and in addition, Yaakov married them while living outside Eretz Yisroel, nevertheless, the angel was able to use this as reason to inflict harm upon Yaakov. The physical harm caused by the guardian angel of Eisav corresponded to this spiritual sin. Yaakov sinned in marriage thus he was harmed in the “yareich,” i.e., matters pertaining to forbidden relationships. Indeed Chazal find this hinted in the words “gid ha’nashe,” which is another expression the Torah uses to describe the wound inflicted by guardian of Eisav. The word “nashe” is related to the word “nasah,” which is translated as marriage.

Using these ideas we may interpret the posuk as meaning that due to the fact the angel found a microscopic flaw in Yaakov in that he married two sisters, he was able to weaken his descendents resolve to adhere to the strict laws of forbidden relationships.

We now ask how did the angel actually create a breach in this matter? Where exactly in our history can we identify the limp in the descendents of Yaakov in connection to forbidden relationships?

The answer is that due to the persecution the suffered at the hands of the descendents of Eisav, the Jewish people completely forgot the identity of the chilazon, the source of the techeiles.

In connection to the mitzvah of tzizis and techeiles the Torah says “you shall see it and you shall remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them and you shall not spy after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray. (Bamidbar 15:39) The Torah here reveals that the techeiles is a tool that Hashem gave us to help overcome the evil inclination in connection to forbidden relationships. The descendents of Eisav have succeeded in taking away this tool from us. For over one thousand years the Jewish people travel through history with a limp. The absence of techeiles.

After Yaakov’s encounter with the guardian angel the posuk says that he arrived in Shechem complete. Chazal tell us that he was healed from his limping. Likewise, this is a sign for his descendents that in the proper time before the return of the Beis Hamikdash the limp will be healed. The identity of the chilazon will become known with certainty and the techeiles will be restored. We will have at our disposal all the tools we need to guard ourselves from the evil inclination once again.


© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2003