The Personification of Esau

When Jacob was wrestling with Esau’s angel, the Torah tells us: “And Jacob asked ... ‘Please tell me your name’.” And he (the angel) replied, ‘Why do you ask me my name?’ And he blessed him (the angel blessed Jacob) there.”

Jacob fought with the spiritual being which was the personification of Esau, which was also the personification of the evil inclination (the yetzer hara —the desire to follow after your desires rather than to do what is right). When Jacob was victorious, he asked the being for its name, but was told, “Why do you ask me my name?” This reply might appear to be a refusal to give a truthful answer. However, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman explained that this was actually the name of the evil inclination: “Don’t ask!”

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Author: Zelig Pliskin

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Bible reference(s): Genesis 32:24-30

Source: “Dvar Torah,” Ohel David Eastern Synagogue bulletin, December 9, 2006.

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