Rabbi Yonah Burr
Making Yaakov's Struggle Ours
על כן לא יאכלו בני ישראל את יד הנשה אשר על כף הירך עד היום הזה כי נגע בכף ירך יעקב בגיד הנשה
Therefore, the Children of Israel are not to eat the displace sinew on the hip-socket to this day, because he struck Yaakov’s hip-socket on the displaced sinew
Who was this ‘man’ that attacked Yaakov? Rashi, citing the medrash tells us that he was the guardian angel of Eisav, and that his struggle represents our eternal battle with our own Yetzer Hara, who was created specifically to challenge us and force us to defeat him.
The Torah tells us that indeed, Yaakov fought with, and defeated the Yetzer Hara, suffering only a minor injury in his hip. Even this minor injury healed relatively quickly, as Yaakov passed Peniel- and the warm rays of the sun nurtured Yaakov back to health. This event teaches us, that we all have the wherewithal to be successful in our own struggles, and even if we suffer setbacks, we can always improve and grow.
The Torah then memorializes this event through the mitzva of Gid HaNasheh, forbidding us to eat the corresponding sinew in an animal, to forever remember this important lesson.
Rav Moshe Feinstein asks an interesting question; normally, when the Torah wants us to remember something, the Torah gives us a mitzva in the form of an A’sai- a positive commandment. For example, we remember being taken out of Egypt by eating the Korban Pesach, and the Matzah. We remember our experience in the desert by dwelling in Succos. Why here then, does the Torah immortalize the lesson in the form of a negative commandment, not to do something- to abstain from eating the sinew? Why not commemorate the event through an action, something that we can do!
Explains Rav Moshe Z”l, that although we all recognize the need to be challenged- ‘where there is no pain, there is no gain’, and we all understand that things will not go well all the time, nevertheless we are not supposed to look for tests. Our job is to try to avoid the things that tempt us, and focus on doing positive mitzvos. When Hashem feels that the time is right for us to be tested and challenged, we attempt to rise to the occasion, and with Hashem’s help, try to overcome whatever is sent our way- but this in not something that we actively seek or want. This is reflected in our daily prayers, ‘remove the satan from before us and behind us, and protect us under the shade of Your wing’.
May we all merit an easy journey, without too many challenges, and the strength to overcome and grow when they inevitably do come- for all is for the good- to help us realize our full potential!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!