Vayishlach: The dust of the duel

…And a man wrestled him until the break of dawn. (Bereishit 32:25.)

They duel in the dark, striving
each to gain the upper hand:
pushing and shoving;
lunging and parrying;
stags with locked antlers
unwilling to disengage.

As early sunbeams crack the gloom,
motes of dust raised in the fray
swirl and float upwards
alighting on the throne of glory:
particles dislodged in earthly struggle
come under heavenly aegis.


Rashi interprets the word “wrestled” vaye’avek as derived from an Aramaic word for intertwined. He envisages each protagonist clasping the other in an attempt to overthrow him. These are rivals who are also connected – hence the sages’ view that the mysterious adversary is Esau’s guardian angel. Rashi also notes the etymological connection with avak, meaning dust, referring to the dust raised by their feet as they struggled. The Sefat Emet expands the theme, commenting that the dust raised in the fight rose as high as the throne of glory. He adds that the power of the struggle with the “other side” reaches that high.

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