Posted on 27 December 2012 by LeslieM

When I was a kid, my brothers and I loved to wrestle with each other. The matches, all in good fun, usually ended with one of them pinning my arms and legs down and tickling me until I screamed, “Bloody Murder,” at which point our mother would rush into the room and call the fight. That’s right, my mother, the Ref.

I might not look like it now, but when I was younger, I used to wrestle. I would thumb wrestle, arm wrestle, foot wrestle, Indian wrestle … and, after a hard rain, I might even do a bit of mud wrestling.

But I was always more of a lover than a fighter. That is until I read about Jacob and realized that life itself is one big wrestling match, a match in which we wrestle not with others, but rather with ourselves and our conscience.

Wrestling with ourselves requires us to learn and improve on our technique; we need to be willing to pin ourselves down in regard to our values and how we will live our lives.

The Torah text for the man that Jacob is wrestling with uses multiple pronouns for he/him … to the point that we are not really quite sure who he/him is …. or, perhaps it was Jacob wrestling with himself.

Some of you may remember a marvelous program on TV called Genesis: A living Conversation. On that show, Bill Moyers said, “I often don’t know whether I’m struggling with G-d or with myself. And, if I’m struggling with myself, I’m struggling with both the demonic and the divine within me.”

Having a wrestling match with an unknown or a masked opponent is not unusual if you are a part of the World Wrestling Federation, but the truth of the matter is that there are many times that we think we are struggling with someone else, some unknown adversary or someone we are pointing blame at, when the one we are really doing battle with, the one we are really struggling with, is ourselves.

I don’t ever remember actually getting hurt when I wrestled with my brothers … annoyed, yes, but, hurt, no … and each time I fought them, they and I both became more accomplished at offensive and defensive techniques, and we not only got to know each other’s moves better, we became more aware of our own moves and we learned which moves worked and which didn’t. Jacob may have been wrestling with an angel or with G-d or with himself; whatever the case, he winds up getting hurt. His hip is never the same and he walks with a limp from then on. Who among us hasn’t had to deal with arthritic pain and faced times when we find ourselves limping or unable to stand up straight?

But while Jacob is physically injured at the hip, he is also more hip after his struggle; he is more attuned to who he is and what he wishes to become. If you want something done right, you have to struggle with it, wrestle with it …

In the New Year ahead, I wish your Yetzer Tov, your good inclination, well in your struggles and may the Ref., whether it is G-d, an angel, your father, your mother or yourself, see you pin your evil inclination down for the count so that you know you are indeed a champion.

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is a member of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains and of the Association of Professional Chaplains. He works professionally in this capacity with a number of healthcare facilities in the area and with hospice. He is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach.

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