Jacob Wrestles with Esau’s Angel

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!”

The desires of this world draw a person like a magnet. The best way to overcome one’s negative impulses is to be aware of how illusory these pleasures actually are. As soon as you take a close look with your intellect at worldly desires you will see how empty and meaningless they are. “Don’t ask!” As soon as you start asking questions to clarify the reality of the yetzer hara, you will find that there is nothing there. This is analogous to seeing a shadow and thinking that something is actually there. As soon as you light a candle, you realize that what you saw was only an illusion. Use your intellect to see the emptiness of negative desires and you will be free from their pull. (Ohr Yohail, vol. 2, p. 35)

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Author: Rabbis Frand & Pliskin

Keywords: Yatsar, Temptation, Yezer Ha-Ra, Yezer Hara, Yetzer Hara, Hara Yetzer, Ha-ra Yetzer, Hara Yezer, Hara Yetser, Ha-ra Yetser, Ha-ra Yezer, Yetzer Ha-Ra, Evil Inclination, The Evil Inclination, Satan, Evil one, Deliver us from evil, The Evil One, Personification of evil, Yetzer, Yetzer ra, Yetzer tov, Esau's angel, Esau's Guardian Angel

Bible reference(s): Genesis 32:24-29, Genesis 25:25, Genesis 25:27, Genesis 25:28, Genesis 25:29, Genesis 25:30, Genesis 25:32, Genesis 25:34, Genesis 26:34, Genesis 27:1, Genesis 27:5, Genesis 27:6, Genesis 27:11, Genesis 27:15, Genesis 27:19, Genesis 27:21, Genesis 27:22, Genesis 27:24, Genesis 27:30, Genesis 27:32, Genesis 27:34, Genesis 27:36, Genesis 27:37, Genesis 27:38, Genesis 27:41, Genesis 27:42, Genesis 28:6, Genesis 28:8, Genesis 28:9, Genesis 32:3, Genesis 32:4, Genesis 32:6, Genesis 32:8, Genesis 32:11, Genesis 32:13, Genesis 32:17, Genesis 32:18, Genesis 32:19, Genesis 33:1, Genesis 33:4, Genesis 33:5, Genesis 33:8, Genesis 33:9, Genesis 33:12, Genesis 33:15, Genesis 33:16

Source: Compilation: 1) Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, “Growth Through Torah”; 2) Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 527, “Matzeivah Questions” [transcribed].

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