In the encounter between Yaakov Avinu and the "man", it says (Genesis 32:26):

וַיַּ֗רְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָכֹל֙ ל֔וֹ וַיִּגַּ֖ע בְּכַף־יְרֵכ֑וֹ וַתֵּ֙קַע֙ כַּף־יֶ֣רֶךְ יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּהֵֽאָבְק֖וֹ עִמּֽוֹ׃

When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him.

The Talmud Bavli (Hulin 91a) quotes R' Yehoshua ben Levi:

וריב"ל אמר אמר קרא (בראשית לב, כו) בהאבקו עמו כאדם שחובק את חבירו וידו מגעת לכף ימינו של חבירו

He describes the physical interaction: "(Yaakov Avinu was) like a man who is hugging his fellow, and his hand reached to the "kaf yemino" of his fellow.

Rashi there explains kaf yemino to be referring to some part of the right thigh. This is in accordance with the traditional explanation of the origin for the prohibition of eating the sciatic nerve.

In the chumash Da'at Mikra (page 431 for those with this book available), the explanation on "ויאבק" says as follows:

ויאבק – ...ענינו התגושש. ופרש ר' יוהשע בן לוי: כאיש שחובק את חברו, וידו מגעת לכף ידו של חברו (חולין צא עמוד א). וכן פרש רש"י – מלשון 'אובקו וחובקון'.

According to this citation from the same gemara in Hulin, it is saying that he was grasping the opposite hand of his opponent, not the thigh.

My question is: what is the source of the Da'at mikra which is quoting כף = hand and not thigh? The vilna shas seems not to say this. Does anyone know of other girsa'ot or midrashim that might support the viewpoint cited by Da'at mikra?

  • 1
    Rashi in Chulin writes "kaf yerech" and I wonder if someone misread the resh and chaf sofit for a dalet and a vav.
    – rosends
    Nov 28, 2019 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


This seems to be more a question of understanding the difference between a human being and an angel.

The word, כף, has multiple meanings (arch, hollow, palm of hand, sole of foot, etc.) and one must look at the specific context to understand the meaning.

Human beings have arms and legs. So in regard to Yaacov Avinu, it is clearly referring to his thigh and the concave spot behind his knee.

That is where on his body, he was touched.

Angels, however, are considered animals, either domesticated or wild. They do not have arms, but four legs.

And so the angel was using the hand on his front leg which would correspond with an arm on a human being. And this also follows the Targum Onkelos which clearly delineates בכף-ירכו as being the limb of the angel, while כף-ירך is referring to Yaacov’s limb.

This entire posuk is usually not understood well among Torah students because they are not usually familiar with the martial arts, in this case, wrestling.

To understand what the angel was trying to do, see the following clip of a wrestling instructor teaching how to perform a leg takedown.

Wrestling_Leg Takedown

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    Downvoted. 1) You don't answer OP question. He asks how Daat mikra deduct that the angel reached Yaakov hand and not his thigh. 2) I disagree about the form of angels you suggest. angels can acquire human form, like Yehoshua and Bilam's angels, who carried swords. 3) I don't understand what you were offering when saying that that angel touched himself thigh, which kind of maneuver is that? definitely not the classic leg take-down, nor what Daat-Mikra meant. 4) I don't think that the angel used the classic take down, because it does not cause hip dislocation. Dec 29, 2019 at 14:58
  • @AlaychemDiamondMonicaback You are missing the point. Even though an angel has the form of a human (sometimes), it’s anatomy is described as an animal. They are Chayot. That accounts for the change in language mentioned by the OP. You can disagree with the approach of looking at the kinetic/mechanical action of the wrestling move. But it’s a classical view followed by many including Ramban & Rabbeinu Tam. Looking at the applied physical process correctly is essential to understanding the Daat-Mikra. Dec 29, 2019 at 15:49
  • The 1st “Kaf yareicho” belongs to the angel. But it is referring to what would be a hand in a human being. The 2nd “kaf yareicho” belongs to Yaacov Avinu and is referring to his thigh. From that point forward, it is necessary to understand how the hand is used in grabbing a thigh for a takedown in classical wrestling. Dec 29, 2019 at 15:57
  • I super-agree with the approach of trying to understand the physical moves of Yaakov and the angel. I just think you got it wrong, but IMHO did. Look at my answer. Dec 31, 2019 at 8:29
  • Angels are animals and have four legs? Source?
    – Ephraim77
    May 23, 2022 at 17:09

Daat Mikra didn't read Rashi.

רש"י חולין צא א

וידו - הימנית מגעת לכף ירך ימנית של חבירו מאחוריו:

Rashi Chulin 91:a

His hand - [The attacker's] right [hand] touches the right hip joint of his rival from behind.

So the "hugging" maneuver that R' Yehoshua ben Levi mentions, was not a leg take-down (@Yaakov Deane's answer) - It was a front bear hug!! [see image]

The Da'at Mikra's understanding, makes no sense fighting-wise after reading the Gemara and Rashi.

enter image description here

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