Todah l'talmidim! Ohevet sheilot mechem.
Thanks for students! I love questions from them.
This on on our portion this week, in B'reisheet chapter thirty-two.
What is the word meaning "wrestle" which is used here when Y'aqov (Jacob) wrestles HaShem?
אבק: ahVAHQ. In this passage, it is in the Hit'Pael verb form, which is reflexive, meaning "he wrestled himself" hmmm. This brings me to an interesting commentary from Jack May, a Christian pastor who views the Bible through Jewish eyes. You can read his commentary here: Jacob Wrestles With God.
It is interesting to note that this particular word occurs only in this account in B'reisheet. At first, I erroneously believed that the name: YisraEL which was given to Y'aqov meant "he wrestles with Elohim", but I was wrong: it goes much deeper than that! YisraEL is from the verb shoresh (root) שרה, sahRAH meaning: "to persist, exert oneself, or persevere" Some sources also connect the name YisraEL to "strive". (see Biblos.com here) I think the words are closely related, "strive" is a synonym of "wrestle". sahRAH* is another word with few occurrences in the Tanack: only here and in Hosea 12:4 (verse 3 in Christian bibles), which is referring to Y'aqov striving in the womb and with Elohim.
Long story short, YisraEL means "he wrestles, strives, persists, exerts himself, or perseveres with Elohim".
I hope that wasn't too confusing. Please let me know if you have a Hebrew word you would like to see analyzed or translated.
*Yes, saRAH שרה also means "princess" as the feminine form of SAR, שר, and this word occurs as the personal name of Abraham's wife. As such, this word occurs many more times in this context. I am discussing the verb form of the name here.