(25) And Jacob was left alone; there a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. (26) And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained as he wrestled with him. (27) And he said: ‘Let me go, for the dawn breaks.’ And he said: ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ (28) And he said to him: ‘What is your name?’ And he said: ‘Jacob.’ (29) And he said: ‘Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ (30) Then Jacob asked him, saying: ‘Tell me please, your name.’ And he said: ‘Why do you ask for my name?’ And he blessed him there. (31) And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.’
What do we know about this "man" that Jacob is wrestling with?
...The reason why these angels are called איש ish is because they appear to the people with whom they converse in human guise. The types of angels...appear either in a vision or while the person to whom they appear is fully awake. God had sent this angel to Jacob to strengthen his courage, not to fear Esau. If Jacob could prevail over an angel, surely he had no reason to be afraid of an encounter with someone like Esau! The fact that the struggle lasted until daybreak was an allusion to Jacob that after a period of night, i.e. problems, adversity, there would come a period of light, peace and prosperity coupled with security..
While some commentators describe the ish as an angel or a vision, some take it a different way. What ideas do you think other commentators have come up with for this ish that Jacob wrestled?
"...the battle between Jacob and the angel took place inside Jacob's mind.... He could not meet his brother, Esau, without wrestling with the guilt that he felt about stealing both his birthright and blessing. All his successes were tarnished by his feelings of having taken what did not belong to him.... He had to struggle with what he had done, and he had to repent. He needed to admit that Esau had been cheated. He had to become a different person, a person who cared about his brother. The battle was with himself. Jacob struggled to become a better, more honest, fair, and just human being...."
-Fields, Harvey J. A Torah Commentary for Our Times: Volume One: Genesis. URJ Press, New York, New York. 1990. p. 86
"The modern writer Elie Wiesel...writes that 'at Penial...two Jacobs came together.' There was the Jacob who had doubts about himself, fears about his future, and regrets about how he had stolen the blessing from his brother. That side of him said: 'I deserve nothing, I am less than nothing, I am unworthy of celestial blessing, unworthy of my ancestors as much as of my descendants, unworthy to transmit God's message....' And there was the other Jacob who was the 'heroic dreamer, the brave, experienced, and future-looking Jacob. That voice reminded him of how he had worked to create his family and his fortune.... That voice reminded him that he was the son of Isaac and that through him the Jewish people was to survive. That night, the two sides of Jacob fought with each other. He wrestled with the most serious questions of his life. Who was he? What was really important to him? What were his responsibilities to himself and to those he loved? As dawn broke, he knew that he would never be the same. He was a changed person. He would limp away from his night battle with himself, but he would have a new name.... Now he would be Yisrael, 'the one who had wrestled with himself and was now ready to wrestle with the world.'"
-Fields, Harvey J. A Torah Commentary for Our Times: Volume One: Genesis. URJ Press, New York, New York. 1990. p. 86-87