A divine wrestling match?! That must have been a spectacle that only seeing with our eyes, not reading words, could do justice. This is an interesting story to read about in Sefer BeReishit, but its implications are very puzzling and ambiguous. Granted, it shows us the strength of Ya'akov Avinu, the man who could overcome all the hardships in life, but what is the significance of the story of the Gid HaNasheh and its additional dietary restriction?
In order to answer the above question, we first ask a slightly different one. The Gemara states in Masechet Megilah (14a) that there were many Nevi’im that stood among Kelal Yisrael, twice the number who left Egypt; there were at least 1.2 million Nevi'im throughout Jewish history. Despite this fact, there are only forty-eight Nevi’im mentioned in Tanach. We hear only a fraction of the millions of Nevu’ot that were received! How can the Tanach omit so many? The Gemara answers by saying that only Nevu’ot that were needed for future generations were written, but the ones that were not needed were not written. A similar concept applies to the Torah itself, as Moshe Rabbeinu wrote it down through Nevu’ah and Ru’ach HaKodesh and only recorded that which was Nitzrechah LeDorot, required for the generations to come. Based on this, we ask, what is the relevance to us of Gid HaNasheh?
Rav Shamshon Refa’el Hirsch gives a beautiful insight as to how this story might be able to take effect in our own lives by explaining a series of Pesukim in Sefer Yeshayahu (9:7-12): "Davar Shalach Hashem BeYa'akov VeNafal BeYisrael. VeYade’u HaAm Kulo Efrayim VeYosheiv Shomron BeGa'avah UVeGodel Levav Leimor. LeVeinim Nafalu VeGazit Nivneh Shikimim Guda'u VaArazim Nachlif. VaYesageiv Hashem…VeHaAm Lo Shav Ad Hamakeihu VeEt Hashem Tzevakot Lo Darashu," "Hashem sent word to Ya’akov, and it fell upon Bnei Yisrael. The entire nation shall know, including Efrayim and those who live in Shomron, with arrogance and haughtiness who say, ‘Bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with stone. Sycamores have been cut down, but we will replace them with cedar trees.’ Although Hashem has turned him against them...the people do not return to Hashem, the one who truly strikes them." The Gemara in Masechet Chulin (91a) interprets this Pasuk in relation to the episode of the Gid HaNasheh. Hashem sending word to Ya’akov refers to the prohibition of Gid HaNasheh, and when the Pasuk states, “it fell on Bnei Yisrael,” it is referring to Bnei Yisrael spreading the Isur of Gid HaNasheh. When understanding the Pasuk this way we see that it is discussing how even after the Assyrians took over Yisrael, they had the ability to rebuild like Ya'akov did. He was injured in his leg by his enemy, yet he recovered. So too Bnei Yisrael, who were conquered, could prevail.
The real message of Gid HaNasheh is now clear. These Pesukim are giving us a forecast of what will lie ahead of the Jewish people for all generations and especially for our generation. The Mal’ach was never able to defeat Ya’akov, but it left him with a limp, lacking the ability to utilize his full material strength. Throughout Jewish history and until this very day, the nations of the world seek to suppress us. No matter how hard they try, they will not be able to defeat us, but some injuries may hinder us. Because of these, we cannot overcome our challenges alone. We need someone to give us support and help us in scary and seemingly hopeless situations in which where we are uncertain of the end result. As seen in the Pesukim in Yeshayahu, we must turn to Hashem, for He alone can save us.
A situation of great uncertainty lies in front of our eyes today. While Israel and Hamas may have finally signed a cease-fire agreement, how long can the current situation last? Will this conflict miraculously end for once and all, or will this just be a hiatus from the barrage that was? Even if what we fear comes true, we should always trust in Hashem. As David HaMelech commands us (Tehilim 115:9), "Yisrael Betach BaShem Ezram UMaginam Hu," "Israel, put faith in Hashem, for He is their helper and protector.”