Friday, December 5, 2014
For the past few years, I have become a big fan of wrestling. All kinds of wrestling. Everything from the WWE to MMA – (which is mixed martial arts). Within a few weeks, I expect to earn my junior black belt in Kempo karate– so it would be best not to mess with me.
I’ll bet you never knew that Jews have historically been big in the wrestling world. Why, we even call one of the martial arts JEW Jitsu!
And there’s also JEW-Do!
n the professional ranks there have been great Jewish wrestlers, including Macho Man, Paul Heyman (who did not get his name from Purim) and of course, Goldberg! So you can see that wrestling is really big for Jews!
To top it all off, my portion contains the most important wrestling match ever, with the possible exception of when the Rock defeated Hulk Hogan in Wrestlemania 18 in 2003.
Of course I’m talking about the main event of Wrestlemania –negative one thousand, the match where Jacob the Patriarch took on The Stranger – part man, part God, part angel, part Jacob himself, in a fight to the finish along the shores of the Yabbok River.
Jacob’s name, Ya’akov, by the way, could be a play on the name of that river, or, more the point, even a play on the word Ya’avek, which means “he wrestled.”
During that wrestling match, which lasted until dawn, the angel nearly won it with his patented hip-breaker move. Jacob was down for the count – his hip socket injured. But then he got up, wrapped his arm around the angel’s neck and won after the angel tapped out. It might be the most talked about match ever – today, Jews all over the world are talking about it.
Oh yes. One other detail: Jacob’s name was changed to Israel – which means “he wrestled with divine beings and people and lived.”
So when you think of it, not only was one of our great heroes a wrestler, our entire nation – Israel – MEANS wrestler. So basically one might consider the land and state of Israel to be just one big wrestling arena. Unfortunately, that’s true.
Wrestling is also a key to living as a Jew. Nothing comes easy, brother! Having just prepared for today, I am living proof of that!
Through this process, I’ve learned that the struggle is even more important than getting to the finish line.
Sometimes the hardest match is when we wrestle with ourselves. On the night Jacob crossed that river, Jacob didn’t know what to do, whether to confront Esau, his brother, whom he ran from twenty years before, or to run away. He had always run away before. Whenever the going got tough, Jacob got going.
In my life, I’ve had to wrestle with some tough decisions too, like the choice of which school to attend, when I moved this year. It was not an easy choice – but it was mine to make, so I couldn’t run from it.
The good thing is that although I now live in two communities, I have deep roots here at Beth El. I’m the 6th generation of my family to belong here. Just outside in the lobby, there is a program for the groundbreaking of the old Beth El building on Prospect St, and I saw that it contains the name of my great great great grandfather, Harris Gruber. I’m proud to be carrying on the traditions of the Gruber family and the great legacy of Goldberg, Macho Man and Paul Heyman.
As I become a bar mitzvah, I understand that we never really stop wrestling… but that’s also what helps us to grow.