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Rashbam to Genesis 32 says that the purpose of Yaakov's crossing Yabok river was to avoid meeting Esav. (See his commentary to verses 21–26.) In verse 25, he explains, an angel fought with Yaakov to prevent that escape, so that Esav could hurt him. In verse 26, then, the angel was unable to win the fight, Yaakov sought to escape against the angel's will, and the angel injured Yaakov's leg [seemingly as a last-ditch effort to prevent the escape, though Rashbam doesn't say]. Then verse 27 reads:

He said, "Let me go [or: send me] for dawn has broken." He replied, "I won't let you go [or: send you] unless you've blessed me."

Most commentaries attribute the first of those speeches to the angel and the second to Yaakov. Rashbam writes:

for dawn has broken: and because the day has illuminated, now you should go on your way

unless you've blessed me: that you send me from you in peace, that I not be damaged by the fact that I fought with you, for now dawn has broken. Then Yaakov knew that he's an angel.

I don't understand this Rashbam. Specifically:

  1. What does "for now dawn has broken" have to do with the request for a blessing that the speaker (Yaakov?) not be damaged by having fought? Why does Rashbam write that phrase there?
  2. How did Yaakov learn just at that juncture that the angel was an angel, and how does the Rashbam know this?
  • 1
    very strange. see here annotation 17. – kouty Dec 14 '16 at 7:52
  • Rashi there explains that the angel was supposed to sing Shira to G-d at that moment based on the Midrash in Chulin 91b that says it was the first chance for that angel to sing Shira. I understood that to mean he was in a rush to do that. So Yaakov is saying, "now is your time to sing, if you want me to let you go, bless me." And I guess that's how Yaakov learned it at that time - the angel revealed to him or he understood the angel to be saying that it was his turn to sing shira. – Y K Dec 14 '16 at 8:13
  • @YK Rashbam (unsurprisingly) doesn't say anything about shira. – msh210 Dec 14 '16 at 10:25
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A possible answer.

Rashbam Bereshit 32, 27:

כי עלה השחר - ‏ וכיון שהאיר היום מעתה יש לילך לדרכך. ‏

The angel said that now he will to leave Yaakov continue on his way ("you can, if you want, to continue on your way") because the angel cannot continue to lock Yaakov after the dawn.

כי אם ברכתני - שתשלחני מאתך בשלום, שלא אהיה ניזוק (1) במה (באתר דעת כתוב כמה, ונראה שהוא טעות סופר) שנתאבקתי עמך, כי עתה עלה השחר אז ידע יעקב שהוא מלאך. ‏

When Yaakov identified his aggessor at dawn, he realized this wrestler was not a man, but an angel. Therefore, Yaakov was afraid of the the possibility of angel's resentment. He required a guarantee that the angel does not bear a grudge. {we can reflect about the deeper meaning of the light of the day}. "תשלחני לשלום" is a paraphrase of "כי אם ברכתני". "you wish me Shalom, entirety".

"כי עלה השחר" (for dawn has broken) The intent of the angel to leave is linked with the end of the time alloted to him. Additionally, the dawn added visual acuity to Yaakov, who became able to discern that the man was actually an angel.

1.What does "for now dawn has broken" have to do with the request for a blessing that the speaker (Yaakov?) not be damaged by having fought? Why does Rashbam write that phrase there?

--> Yaakov discerned that he is a angel, and may bear a gruge. Rashbam explains that the dawn has a second consequence, the discernement of Yaakov was enhanced thanks to the sun light.

2.How did Yaakov learn just at that juncture that the angel was an angel, and how does the Rashbam know this?

--> Thanks to the power of the sunlight.


(1) See Chizkuni on the verse:

שלא תהיה נוטר איבה. ‏

That you will not bear grudge against me.

See the note 17 in this page, an other explanation.

  • Your explanation that it's for revenge is, I guess, based on "ניזוק כמה שנתאבקתי עמך". Note though that the version I saw had "ניזוק במה שנתאבקתי עמך" which would mean he simply sought a blessing that he not be injured. In any event, this answers my second question: thank you! – msh210 Dec 14 '16 at 10:24
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    @msh210 the future שלא אהיה ניזוק is perhaps a sign that the fear is of revenge. I take it in Chizkuny – kouty Dec 14 '16 at 10:53
  • @msh210 I noticed the both girsaot. I retired the word revenge. You are right it is not in the text, even of the chizkuni – kouty Dec 14 '16 at 12:24
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Keeping in mind the idea that the actions of the Patriarchs are a sign for the children, like is learned from Sefer Noam Elimelech explaining Chullin 7a

ואך דהענין הוא דאבות סימן לבנים: והפירוש הוא כך שכל דבר ודבר בתחילתו לפעול איזה נס הוא קשה מאד אבל כיון שכבר נעשה פעם אחת כבר יכולים הצדיקים שיהיו אחר כך לעשות כזאת אפילו כמה פעמים כיון שנפתח השער. ‏

"Thus, the concept is that the Avot are a sign for the descendants: And the meaning is that everything that occurs via some miracle, in its first occurrence is extremely difficult. But since it was already accomplished once, the Tzaddikim who come after that time will be able to do like this, even many times since the door was already opened."

And also from the commentary of Ramban to Sefer Bereshit, parshat Lech Lecha 12:6 which says:

ויעבור אברם בארץ עד מקום שכם. אומר לך כלל תבין אותו בכל הפרשיות הבאות בענין אברהם יצחק ויעקב והוא ענין גדול הזכירוהו רבותינו בדרך קצרה ואמרו כל מה שאירע לאבות סימן לבנים ולכן יאריכו בכתובים בספר המסעות וחפירות הבארות ושאר המקרים ויחשוב החושב בהם כאלו הם דברים מיותרים אין בהם תועלת וכולם באים ללמד על העתיד כי כאשר יבוא המקרה לנביא משלשת האבות יתבונן ממנו הדבר הנגזור לבא לזרעו.

"And Avram passed over the land until Shechem: This says a general rule to you. You will apply it as a construct in regard to all the coming parshiyot in regard to the concept of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov. And it is a major concept which our Rabbis recall in a brief way. They say, "Everything which happens to the Avot is a sign for the descendants." And therefore, the travels, and the digging of the wells and the other events will go on at great length in the texts of the sefer. And one might come think about them as if they are extraneous and that they are of no importance. And all of them come to teach about the future. Because when an event will happen to a Prophet from among the three Patriarchs, it is to be understood from it that the thing is decreed to happen to their descendants."

And so this episode too is a spiritual wrestling match which is setting up a paradigm within the Torah to help clarify the future of the Jewish people.

Concerning how Rashbam understood here that the opponent was an angel is likely following the same line of reasoning which Rashi expressed in Bereshit 33:10.

The Siftei Chachomim to 32:25 explains that Rashi understands grammatically that the word ויאבק must be understood according to its alternate, Aramaic meaning of wrestling and not the simple Hebrew meaning, as Machberet Menachem explains, of raising up the dust. This is because, as the Maharshal explains, this conflict reached up to the Throne of Glory as found in Bereshit Rabbah. This also follows the comment of Ba'al HaTurim to the same word. Menachem took the conflict to be literal but Chazal understood it to be a spiritual conflict.

Because the episode was not according to the plain meaning, Chazal understood Yaacov's opponent to be an angel and not a human being. And so, in context, it would mean that Yaacov recognized the true identity of this angel via prophecy and not through his physical eyes which follows the comment of Ba'al HaTurim to 32:23 who explains that Yaacov was seeing his future descendants in this episode. And this would also agree with the precise wording of Ramban and the concept of the actions of the Patriarchs are a sign for the descendants. Because the Patriarchs are prophets.

Concerning the question of what this spiritual paradigm corresponds with, it appears to relate to the final redemption.

Like is found in the commentary of Ohr HaChayim to VaYikra 6:2, the period of exile is compared to night. Similarly, redemption is compared to day. In the context of this episode between Yaacov and the angel of Eisav, the sunrise corresponds with the beginning of the final redemption and the conflict that will be manifest between the descendants of Yaacov and Eisav.

In the spiritual paradigm, Yaacov is not simply an individual but rather the representative of the entire Jewish people (All twelve tribes arose from Yaacov) like is explained in the commentary of Ohr HaChayim on Devarim 32:9. This is just as the angel is the supervising angel for all of Eisav, not just a single person, like the Ohr HaChayim explains on Devarim 32:8.

As the story relates, Yaacov feared that the angel of Eisav might be able to hurt him. This angel intended to kill Yaacov. But the angel was unable to overcome Yaacov due to HaShem's decree. So the angel settled for touching the Kaf-Yerech (כף-ירך יעקב), the sciatic nerve of Yaacov's thigh, meaning he damaged or took the soul so to speak (ותקע כף-ירך יעקב) via Yaacov's sciatic nerve. This follows the meaning of the word according to the Malbim on Jeremiah 6:8.

תקע נפשי ממך. שרשו יקע, ובא על הסרת הדבר ממקום דבוקו, ותקע כף ירך יעקב, והומלץ פה על הסרת דבקת הנפש לאהבה אל השנאה, כמו ותקע נפשי מעליה (יחזקאל כ''ג) :‏

In context, it means that the Kaf-Yerech represents something specific pertaining to the whole of the Jewish people as it relates to the final redemption.

This allusion to the redemption also appears to connect with the root Taka (תקע) which relates to the blowing of the Great Shofar (תקיעת שופר הגדול) three times, signaling the time of the final redemption like is found in Sefer Avkat Rochel at the beginning of the eighth sign of Moshiach.

The Kaf-Yerech appears to be an allusion to Moshiach be Yosef who, according to Midrash, appears at the beginning of the final redemption and is either prematurely murdered by the soldiers of Armilus or simply dies upon completing his mission as is explained in Sefer Avkat Rochel in the seventh sign of Moshiach concerning Nechemiah ben Chushiel who is Moshiach ben Yosef. And so the blessing which Yaacov Avinu demanded was that he incur no damage as a result of wrestling with this angel. That Moshiach be Yosef would not be murdered, but that he would complete his mission.

The idea of Crossing the Yabbok which is mentioned in this story also appears to hint to this idea of death and mourning as it relates to attaining a higher level of life like is found in the authors introduction to the classic book on death and mourning, Sefer Maavar Yabbok by Rabbi Aaron Berechiah ben Moses of Modena.

One of the longstanding traditions throughout the ages has been to pray for the welfare of Moshiach ben Yosef, that he should not be murdered by Armilus like is found in the siddur of the Ari z"l on the blessing for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Nachem prayer for the 9th of Av following Sha'ar HaKavannot by Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar HaAmidah, chapter 6, the siddur of the Ramchal, the siddur of the Ben Ish Chai and as stated in the introduction of Rabbi Menachem Kasher to his Sefer HaTekufah HaGadolah quoting the Ohr HaChayim in the name of the Ari z"l, and in quoting the prayer composed by the Vilna Gaon, which states that the faithful shepherd, Moshe Rabbeinu, David HaMelech and other Rishonim who were compared to angels all prayed that Moshiach ben Yosef should be successful and not be murdered by Armilus.

כמוזכר לעיל כותב ״אור החיים״ הק׳ שיש להתפלל על משיח בן יוסף שלא יהרג, בשם קבלת האר״י, בספר ״קול התוד״ מיסודו של הגר״א מובאת תפילה מיוחדת בשם ״עוד יוסף חי״ למען משיח בן יוסף. וז״ל שם בפרק ה׳:

תפלת עוד יוסף חי אבינו שבשמים, רחם נא על שארית יוסף עמך, אב הרחמן גואל ישראל וירושלים, מצמיח קרן ישועה, הושיעה נא והצליחה נא, ציר אמונים משיחא דאתחלתא משיח בן יוסף נושא חליינו וסובל מכאובינו במלחמתו נגד צורר ישראל ארמילוס הרשע, וכמו שנאמר והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשיו לקש, ועלו מושיעים בהר ציון לשפוט את הר עשו והיתה לה׳ המלוכה, והי׳ ה׳ למלך על כך הארץ.

עוד יוסף חי, יוסף עוד חי, חי יוסף עוד. בן דוד חי וקיים.

אבינו האב הרחמן הבוחר בירושלים ושוכן בציון, בטובך הגדול ישוב נא חרון אפך מעמך ומעירך ומנחלתך. ונזכה כלנו לראות מהרה בהתגלות החזון הקדוש שנרמז ממעון קדשך לרבנו אליהו בן שלמה נהורא דמב״י בדרגא דטוב. בפסוקים הקדושים: אל תירא עבדי יעקב וישרון בחרתי בו, ־ ויהי בשלם סוכו ומעונתו בציון, ־ חזה ציון קרית מועדנו עיניך תראנה ירושלים נוה שאנן. במעליתא דזיהרא עילאה. צור משגבנו מגן ישענו, הגן בעד עץ יוסף אשר ביד אפרים, הרם קרנו קרן משיחך בן יוסף כאמור: וקרני ראם קרניו בהם עמים ינגח. השגיבה כחו לעמוד אי כאמור ותשב באיתן קשתו. במלחמתו הקשה נגד אויבי עמך צוררינו, כדבר הבטחתך על נפילת גוג ומגוג (יתזקאל ל״ט): על הרי ישראל תפול אתה וכל אגפיו ועמים אשר אתך. ויצאו יושבי ערי ישראל ובערו והשיקו בנשק ומגן וכו׳, והיה ביום ההוא אתן לגוג מקום שם קבר בישראל וכו׳ וקברו שם את גוג ואת כל המונה וקראו גיא אמון גוג. ונתתי את כבודי בגויים וראו כל הגוים את משפטי אשר עשיתי ואת ידי אשר שמתי בהם. וידעו בית ישראל כי אני ה׳ אלקיכם עתה אשיב את שבות יעקב ורחמתי כל בית ישראל וקנאתי לשם קדשי. שגבנו ועזרנו צור משגבנו להגיע במעשה ידינו על נתלת קדשנו לדרגת מספרו הגדול והמקודש (מטטרון שר הפנים) שרו של משיחא דאתחלתא ״טצ״ץ ביסוד״ אחוז בשני צבאות ימינא ושמאלא — וראו כל עמי הארץ אח ישועוח אלקינו מהרה. אבינו האב הרחמן, תהא השעה הזאת שעח רחמים ועת רצון מלפניך וכו׳ בזכות העוסקים בתקוני צפנת פענח וכונותיהם לביעור רוח הטומאה ולקדוש שמך הגדול והקדוש, בזכות העוסקים בישוב ארצינו הקדושה ובבנין ירושלים, בזכות בניך יושבי נחלתך הסובלים יסורי ארץ ישראל ומקבלים את היסורים באהבה למען קידוש שמך וקירוב גאולת עמך ונחלתך במהרה. בזכות כל זאת יתיה בן יוסף משיחא דאתחלתא ולא יפול כתפילתו של רעיא מהימנא מרע״ה ודוד המע״ה ותפילתם של עוד ראשונים כמלאכים, בעד תיי והצלחת משיחא דאתתלתא מבי״א. וכפי שגזרו צדיקי עולם, צדיקים גוזרים והקדוש ברוך הוא מקיים. עוד יוסף חי, יוסף חי עוד, חי יוסף עוד, בן דוד חי וקיים, צדיק באמונתו יחיה, והיו עץ יוסף ועץ יהודה לאחד ביד ה׳, וכל אשר הוא עושה ה׳ מצליח בידו. הבן יקיר לי אפרים אם ילד שעשועים כי מידי דברי בו זכור אזכרנו עוד על כן המו מעי לו רחם ארחמנו נאם ה׳. ויהי נועם ה׳ עלינו ומעשי ידינו כוננה עלינו. בכל ח״י הסגולות והנאצלות של משיתא דאתחלתא במלא השלמות של כל סגולה וסגולה עם דרגת טצ״ץ ביסוד, בסוד הכתוב הקטן יה״י לאלף והצעיר לגוי עצום אני ה׳ בעתה אתישנה. מן המיצר קראתי יה ענני במרחב יה.

This is one of the meanings of the Nachem prayer said at mincha of Tisha b'Av. When it refers to the mourners of Tzion (ציון), we are taught that this is a reference to Moshiach ben Yosef (יוסף) because Tzion and Yosef share the same gematria of 156 like is taught in the commentary Pnei David to Devarim 9:4.

וגם יוסף גימטריא ציון ובזהר פ' ויחי דף רמ"ח יברכך ה' מציון דמיניה נפקין ברכאן לאשקאה לגינתא ובזה יבא על נכון משז"ל באגדתא דבראשית פרק ס"ז כל מה שאירע ליוסף אירע לציון והאריכו מאד בזה עיין שם באורך כי יוסף גי' ציון והוא בחינת יסוד כיוסף ודוק היטב.‏

In a similar fashion, the small-sum gematria of Yosef (יוסף) shares the same value as Kaf-Yerech (כף-ירך) when including the letters and kollel (a sum of 21).

So it appears that Rashbam is showing that we learn the tradition to pray for the welfare of Moshiach ben Yosef from the prophetic insight of Yaacov Avinu.

Moshiach ben Yosef, who appears at the beginning of the redemption, meaning with the breaking of the dawn. That Moshiach ben Yosef should successfully complete his mission and not be murdered prematurely. That is the connection of the Breaking of the dawn to his request for a blessing.

  • the angel is the supervising angel for all of Eisav, not just a single person. Source? But the angel was unable to overcome Yaacov due to HaShem's decree Source? meaning he damaged or took the soul so to speak...via Yaacov's sciatic nerve. This follows the meaning of the word according to the Malbim on Jeremiah 6:8. Source? Maybe he just caused a dislocation? The Kaf-Yerech appears to be an allusion to Moshiach be Yosef How does this appear? – mevaqesh Dec 15 '16 at 20:38
  • @mevaqesh Still looking for the location of the Maharshal citation brought in Siftei Chachamim. I thought it might be in his super commentary to Rashi, but it doesn't appear to be there. That suggests it may be somewhere in Yam Shel Shlomo. That's a much bigger job. – Yaacov Deane Dec 20 '16 at 18:14
  • @YaacovDeane While finding the Maharshal would be nice, at the minimum you could clarify that it the Siftei Hakhamim quotes the Maharshal. – mevaqesh Dec 20 '16 at 18:33
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Double AA Dec 20 '16 at 22:40
  • If something you claim is mentioned in a source you link to, you should specify that. One of the longstanding traditions throughout the ages...to pray for the welfare of Moshiach ben Yosef, that he should not be murdered by Armilus The earliest referenced source to the prayer regarding Armillus seems to be a reference be the 18th century. Regarding Messiah not being killed; the 16th century. Neither of these is very old by most standards (relative to Tanakh, Hazal, Geonim, Rishonim, etc. I further see no evidence that it is longstanding; or standing at all; just that some individuals did. – mevaqesh Dec 20 '16 at 23:35

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