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Parashat Debarim: Believing That Our “Limp” Will Heal

In Parashat Debarim, Moshe recounts several of Beneh Yisrael’s experiences as they traveled through the desert, including the time when they prepared to journey along the border of Edom, the nation that descended from Esav, the brother of Yaakob Abinu. G-d commanded Beneh Yisrael not to initiate hostilities against Edom, because they were not entitled to Edom’s territory "Ad Midrach Kaf Ragel" – literally, "even walking with your feet" (2:5). Meaning, Beneh Yisrael were not allowed even to peacefully pass through Edom’s territory without the kingdom’s permission.

Rashi brings an additional interpretation of this verse from the Midrash, which explains that one day, we will, in fact, take possession of the land of Edom. The phrase "Ad Midrach Kaf Ragel," the Midrash writes, means that Beneh Yisrael may not take over Edom until the time when G-d will "step with His feet," as it were. This refers to a prophecy of Zecharya (14:4) foreseeing the final redemption, when Hashem will "stand" upon Har Ha’zetim (the Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem, and take revenge from the enemy nations that oppressed the Jewish People. At that time, we will be entitled to take the land of Edom, the nation which destroyed the Second Temple and has committed numerous atrocities against Am Yisrael.

Additionally, this verse hearkens back to an earlier event – Yaakob Abinu’s wrestle with the Satan, the angel representing Esav. As we read in Parashat Vayishlah (Bereshit 32:24-29), a mysterious attacker began fighting with Yaakob as he made his way back to Eretz Yisrael from Haran, and the Rabbis explain that this was the Satan. They wrestled throughout the night, and the Satan, unable to kill Yaakob, struck him in the thigh, dislodging the "Gid Ha’nasheh" (sciatic nerve), thus causing Yaakob to limp. In commemoration of this event, we refrain from eating this part of animals. The Hatam Sofer (Rav Moshe Sofer, Pressburg, 1762-1839) commented that the "Gid Ha’nasheh" is one of the body’s 365 "Gidim" (sinews), which correspond to the 365 days of the year, and to the 365 Biblical prohibitions. Yaakob’s confrontation with the angel, the Hatam Sofer shows, occurred on Tisha B’Ab, such that the "Gid Ha’nasheh" – and the Biblical prohibition against partaking of this part of an animal – are associated with this day, the day when we commemorate our struggles against enemy nations. Just as the Satan dealt a serious blow to Yaakob, making him limp, our foes have succeeded in dealing many devastating blows, inflicting a great deal of pain and causing a great deal of anguish, which we mourn each year on Tisha B’Ab. However, just as the Satan ultimately failed in its attempt to kill Yaakob, and, moreover, Yaakob was eventually healed from his injury, our enemies likewise are incapable of eliminating us – and one day, our "limp" will be healed. G-d will exact retribution from the nations that oppressed us, and all our pain will be permanently healed.

This is the meaning of the verse which forbids waging war against Edom "Ad Midrach Kaf Ragel." There will come a time when our nation will be healed, when we will again "walk with our feet" steadily and confidently, without a limp. And at that time, the kingdom of Edom will meet its downfall and be punished for the unspeakable tragedies it has brought upon the Jewish People.

On Tisha B’Ab, we mourn for all the pain that "Edom" has inflicted upon our nation, for all our "limping," all the suffering we have endured at the hands of Esav. But at the same time, as we reflect upon Yaakob’s wrestle with the angel which occurred on this day, we are reassured that we will one day be fully healed, with the arrival of Mashiah, who will come and cure our ailments, and bring us all to the rebuilt Bet Ha’mikdash, speedily and in our days, Amen.

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