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The past ten days have been very emotional for the Jewish people. We have buried fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children and classmates. At the same time, though, we have rejoiced at weddings and bat mitzvahs and each others accomplishments.

Sometimes, we may feel that those who are suffering, are not people we know and the emotions are minimal compared to the emotions that run, were it someone closer. Likewise, it may be difficult to feel the joy that is not your own.

Yaakov was left alone on one side of the river after his family had already crossed over. It was then that the angel of Esav came down and began to attack him. The Meforshim explain that this Malach is the Yetzer Hara, who was trying to knock Yaakov off the straight yet narrow path of Kedusha. The question is asked, why did the Malach wait for Yaakov to be alone to begin to fight him? There are many approaches to answering this. Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky offers a unique approach. Most human beings are unable to maintain their spiritual level and stature when they are alone. Most people need a support system, a society, a “Chevra” to keep them on the straight and narrow path of righteous behavior. To do it all alone, without peer pressure and peer support, without losing one’s madreigah is a phenomenon which is extremely difficult for the average person to attain.

The Malach / Yetzer Hara knew about this concept and, therefore, attacked Yaakov specifically when he was alone. However,  the Angel saw “that he was unable to defeat him”. He saw that Yaakov Avinu was so strong and so perfect that he could not affect him. Yaakov was an Ish Kadosh, he was at a level of ruchnius where his face was on the Merkava.

The Malach was able to hit him on his thigh, which represents the descendants of Yaakov. Meaning that Yaakov descendants do not have this same capability to fight the Yetzer Hara alone.

They do not have that capability of maintaining their spiritual strength and honesty when alone. If there is ever a way to bring down a human being, it is when he is isolated, when he does not have “Chevra”, when he does not have a society. At that point, he is vulnerable to fall from his spiritual level.

This is the reason why Yaakov told his children not to eat from the Gid Hanashe. We must remember the weakness of the thigh and that we can no longer win the battle alone. When we are spread across the world, we will have to stick together with other Jews and socialize and eat together with our own brothers and not with the goyim. By doing this, we will have our connection to others and will not be alone with the Malach. Therefore we will be able to regain our capability to fight the Yetzer Hara and maintain that straight and narrow path of Kedusha.

As much as this applies when Klal Yisrael is fighting spiritual battles, this also applies when we are fighting physical battles. We need to be responsible for each other, we need to stick with each other through grief and through joy. By sticking together, despite whatever differences we may have, we will prevail.

As children of Yaakov Avinu, we can follow his instruction to his children and feel each others pain and happiness. Watching the Jewish people this week, I think we are doing a pretty good job.

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