Why does Jacob hold on so tenaciously to the angel (Genesis 32:27)? Where once he held his brother’s heel for a free ride from the womb to the world, now he grasps the angel and demands a blessing. One lesson we draw from this is not to rely on miracles. The Talmud tells us, “One should never place oneself in a dangerous situation, saying, ‘A miracle will come and save me’” (Shabbat 32a).
Perhaps the lesson to draw from Jacob concerns the constructive balance between self-reliance and placing trust in God. Jacob, in his spoiled youth, only thought of himself and satisfying his own desires. He has become a man who has broadened his concern to include the welfare of others. He now realizes that he needs God in his life. He grasps the angel because he needs God’s presence at all times and in all places. It is the wisdom we allow ourselves to receive from God and not our scheming, which leads us to the proper place. The Kotzker Rebbe taught, “Where is God’s presence? Wherever we let God in.” – Rabbi Amy Scheinerman (2007)