In this week’s parsha, Parshat VaYishlah, Jacob wrestles with an angel all throughout the night until the dawn. And then, “when he saw that he could not prevail against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh, and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was struck as he struggled with him/וַיַּרְא כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ, וַיִּגַּע בְּכַף-יְרֵכוֹ וַתֵּקַע כַּף יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּוֹ.” The Netziv asks why the verse ends with “as he struggled with him.” It seems superfluous. We know that they were struggling from the previous verse, we do not need these seemingly extra words. The Netziv explains that until this point in the night, the angel had been the aggressor, engaging Jacob and wrestling with him. Now that the angel realized that he would not win he tried to disengage. However, Jacob came back at the angel and continued wrestling. And for this reason, Jacob is punished, and his leg is injured.
Why should Jacob be punished? The Netziv notes that this is because Jacob is known for his quality of loving peace in abundance. Jacob could have let things go, and he normally would. Because Jacob went against his usual pious standard, he was punished. This is similar to the teaching in the Talmud, “Ravin bar Rav Adda said that Rabbi Yitzḥak said: One who is accustomed to come to the synagogue and did not come one day, the Holy One, Blessed be He, asks about him...If it is for a matter involving a commandment/mitzvah that he went and absented himself from prayer in the synagogue, then, despite the darkness, there is light for him, [the aura of his mitzvah will protect him,] but if it is for an optional matter, some mundane purpose, that he went and absented himself from prayer in the synagogue, then, even once the day begins, there is no light for him.” The Netziv sums this up by teaching a great principle, that when a person regularly exhibits a good trait, it becomes as if that person vows to always do it. If the vow is broken, there are consequences.
When we make good habits a part of our lives, we tell the world that that is who we are. Of course, when life is working well, continuing the good habits is easier. But, when life throws obstacles in our way, are we still capable of following through with our good actions? This is reminiscent of a famous scene from Fiddler on the Roof. Nahum the Beggar is asking for charity. Lazar Wolf gives him one kopeck. “One kopeck? Last week you gave me two kopecks!” Lazar responds, “I had a bad week.” To which Nahum retorts, “So? You had a bad week, why should I suffer?” We all have bad weeks. For some of us, that means that we missed going to shul when we regularly do, or we didn’t give charity, or we snapped at a friend. If we pay attention after these missteps, we will hopefully notice that something in us does not feel right. We should not have a real physical ailment like Jacob, but we will not feel whole like we used to. This deficiency should remind us that even when we are struggling, we must continue to exhibit the actions and good deeds that we have become accustomed to doing. May this week be a reminder to all of us, that while we struggle, and sometimes stumble, we can get up and get back on the good path.
 Gen. 32:26
 Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (1816 in Mir, Russia – August 10, 1893 in Warsaw, Poland), also known as Reb Hirsch Leib Berlin, and commonly known by the acronym Netziv, was an Orthodox rabbi, dean of the Volozhin Yeshiva and author of several works of rabbinic literature in Lithuania.
 BT Brachot 6b
 Ha’Emek Davar, Gen. 32:26
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.