And Yaakov remained alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. And he saw that he could not defeat him so he grabbed him in the hollow of his thigh and he dislocated the hollow of Yaakov’s thigh with his wrestling with him. And he said, “Send me because the dawn has broken.” And he said, “I will not send you unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Yaakov!” And he said, “No long will your name be Yaakov but rather Israel, because you struggled with the Divine and man and you prevailed.” And Yaakov asked and he said, “Tell me please, what your name is?” And he said, “Why is it that you ask for my name?” And he blessed him there. (Breishis 32:25-30)
Yaakov sure had a rough night that night he wrestled with the “man”-angel but as a result he ended up with an upgraded name- title “Israel” and mighty blessing to boot. Oddly Yaakov benefited greatly from that rugged encounter. It’s no secret that the so called wrestling match that lasted all night really represents our struggle too with the Yetzer Hora throughout the entirety our lives and all of history. It sounds perverse but when we prevail over the Yetzer Hora- the evil inclination really becomes our biggest friend! How is that so?
Rabbi Sholom Schwadron, the famous Maggid of Jerusalem, noticed that one of the regular attendees of a teen learning group was surprisingly absent on Sunday and Monday. Deeply concerned about his wellbeing, on Tuesday the Rabbi went to meet the boy at his home. He inquired about the reason he missed consecutive days. “I know you for years and you never missed a day of learning yet. I am sure that something serious is going on. Please tell me what’s happening.” The boy was embarrassed at first but he eventually decided to disclose his secret reason for being absent but not without first explaining his hesitancy to divulge it. “I would tell you Rebbe but you just won’t understand.” “Try me,” begged Reb Sholom, “I will try my hardest to understand.”
Certain he would be misunderstood by a Rabbi, who had probably had never seen a soccer ball in his life he confessed, “I missed because of the soccer finals. It’s the championship all this week and I must listen to the games! I’ll be back next week for sure!”
Rabbi Schwadron listened with interest. “I’m sure that this game of soccer must be quite exciting. Tell me,” he asked, “How do you play this game of soccer? What’s the object? “Well,” began the student filled with enthusiasm, “there are eleven players, and the object is to kick a ball into the netting of the goal. No one but the goal-keeper can move the ball with his hands or arms!” Rabbi Schwadron’s face brightened! “Oh! Is that all? So just go there, kick the ball in the goal, and get back to learning!” The boy laughed. “Rebbe, you don’t understand! The opposing team also has eleven men and a goal-keeper, and their job is to stop our team from getting the ball into their goal!” “Tell me,” Rabbi Schwadron whispered. These other men on the other team, are they there all day and night?” “Of course not Rebbe, they go home at night!”
Rabbi Schwadron huddled close and in all earnest asked. “Why don’t you sneak into the stadium in the evening and kick the ball into the goal when they are not looking! Then you can win and return to learning Torah!” The boy threw his hands up in frustration. “Rebbe! You don’t understand. It’s of no real value to kick a ball into an empty net if there is no one trying to stop you!”
“Aha!” cried Reb Sholom in absolute victory. “Now think a moment and listen to what you just said! It is no trick to come to learn Torah only when nothing is trying to hold you back! It is when the urge to skip is so overpowering, when the Yetzer Hora is blocking the goal, that’s when you can score real points. Come tomorrow and you can’t imagine how much your Torah learning will be worth!” The next day, amazingly the boy came to learn and he scored a huge goal! DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.