We’ve heard a lot of really interesting ideas from the Kesher 4th and 5th graders (Anafim group) concerning what’s going on when Yaakov wrestles with a mysterious being, and has his name changed to Yisrael.
On Tuesday the group came up with an idea that seemed strikingly original to me. Perhaps the being was Esau, crossing over the river secretly in the night to confront his estranged brother, and ultimately to bless him.
The interpretation has some excellent textual details to support it. In particular it creates a strong parallel between the wrestling and the meeting between Yaakov and Esav in the next chapter “And Esau ran toward him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (Gen 33:4). Yaakov declares that seeing the face of Esav is ‘like seeing the face of God’ (33:10), echoing Yaakov’s statement that at the site of the wrestling he has ’seen God face-to-face) (32:31)
That evening I hit the books, to see if such an interpretation had been ventured by the scholars of previous generations. I believe that we find it in the midrash Genesis Rabbah 77:3 explaining that this was the ‘guardian angel of Esau’ – subtly different from the Anafim’s idea, but extremely close all the same!
I am always astonished at how our kids, given the opportunity to engage thoughtfully with text, come up with such profound insights, and how often, when mining the same rich veins of interpretation as our scholarly ancestors, they uncover the same jewels!
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