August 23, 2019 |

The Empathy of Israel

Jacob wrestles an angel, at night, before meeting with his brother Esau.

Jacob has not seen Esau for more than twenty years. Jacob fears that Esau may want to kill him.

The angel changes Jacob's name. The angel calls Jacob, Yisrael: Israel.

For, the angel says to Jacob, of Jacob, You have struggled (saritah) with God and with man, and you have prevailed.

But struggle brings pain.

Wrestling Jacob, the angel touches the hollow of Jacob's thigh, by the place on the leg called the sinew of the vein.

That touch wounds Jacob and makes him limp.

This wound creates a Law.

The verse says: Because of this wound, when we eat meat, the Children of Israel do not eat of the sinew of the vein until this day.

Thousands of years ago, Jacob was hurt in his thigh.

Now, as we enjoy food, we may not enjoy the meat of the place of Jacob's wound.

To be of the Children of Israel is to hold empathy for all that has happened to Israel, ever.

That empathy is tied to the very roots of our name.



Abe Mezrich

Joined: October 11, 2007

Abe Mezrich is a new-York based writer and lecturer, and the author of a weekly dvar Torah. Contact him at

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