We read in the Torah this week how Jacob returns to Israel and encounters his brother Esav. Esav is very upset with Jacob. The whole selling the birthright, then gotted tricked out of another blessing thing that transpired when they were younger. Esav always had it out for Jacob and Jacob now seeks to return to the land of his parents.
Jacob camps by a river and is attacked by an assasin angel sent by Esav. Really the stuff of a very good James Bond film. They fight till daybreak. Jacob’s opponent cannot defeat him, and gives Jacaob a blessing of a new name. The name is Israel. Jacob walks away with an injured hip, the sciatic nerve to be precise.
Jacob limps away into the morning light, whole, but injured. He survived the attempt on his life, received a new name, and now still must face Esav.
The Jewish people do eat the sciatic nerve still today. Why? Why would it matter what happened then to Jacob, and why would that affect what we eat or don’t eat from a cow?
Rabbi Hirsch points out that staying away form the sciatic nerve is about remembering our place in the big scheme of history. Esav morphes into Rome. Rome conqured Israel. Israel seemed defeated, afterall the Temple was destroyed, and our people scattered across the world. Israel limped through history, never having a firm footing. Always at the whim of others and other powers.
But Rome is now gone… and Israel survived. Esav/Rome did not cause our total destruction. He can’t. The Jewish people have a blessing that will take us till the end of days. And Esav tries and tries again, but he is unsuccessful.
But I notice a phenomenon. This is the Esav Condition. I think that Esav CAN defeat us. It doesn’t matter that history has proven the opposite. Maybe I still function in the day to day with this fatalistic condition.
Its time to rid ourselves of the Esav condition and take on the Jacob/Israel condition. The deep belief and knowledge that I have a place in history and a message to tell the world. I need to wrestle with evil. I need to overcome evil. And the greatest challenge is to overcome that which lurks in our hearts. First we must conquer our own demons, our own misgivings our own baggage.
Some commentaries say that Jacob wrestled with his own demons, with himself. Maybe we can pray this week to emulate our father Jacob!