As we have learned (see yesterday’s daf), the source for the prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve is the story related in Sefer Bereishit (32:33) that describes the wrestling match that took place between Ya’akov and the angel, where Ya’akov is injured in his thigh. The Gemara on today’s daf develops the story of the wrestling match further.
According to the Gemara, when the angel said “Let me go, for the dawn has risen,” (see Bereishit 32:37) Ya’akov said to him, “Are you a thief or a gambler who is afraid of the dawn?” He replied: “I am an angel, and from the day that I was created my time to recite a song before God had not arrived until now.”
A question raised by a number of the commentaries on this midrash is why at this particular moment in time – just as Ya’akov is defeating him in battle – was the angel called to offer praise to God?
One approach presented is that every aspect of creation in the world – including angels – can reach a level of singing praise to God only when it reaches the fulfillment of its purpose of being created. Thus, we find that the Jewish People, who reached the highest level of comprehension of the Creator and His purposes upon crossing the Red Sea following the Exodus from Egypt, found it appropriate to sing Az Yashir (see, Chapter 15) just at that moment. In this case, the Sages identify this angel as the spiritual representation of Ya’akov’s older brother, Eisav, about whom their mother received the prophecy that “the elder shall serve the younger” (Bereishit 25:23). At the moment when the angel was defeated in battle by Ya’akov, he reached his purpose in creation, which was to play a role in the spiritual development of Ya’akov Avinu. Only in his moment of defeat could he sing praises before God.