Sunday, December 18, 2016


Rav Lipman Podolsky z"l 

Our parsha depicts the famous wrestling match between Yaakov and the angel of Eisav (who, according to many, was the Yetzer HaRa; see Breishis 32:25-30 and Kli Yakar there). After the battle, a bizarre dialogue ensued. Yaakov asks the angel, "Please, tell me your name."

The angel simply responds, "Why do you ask my name?" and the conversation concludes. Why did the angel evade Yaakov's question? Why did he not just answer him directly? And what did the angel have against Yaakov knowing his real name?

Rav Leib Chasman, in his classic Ohr Yahel, explains: In truth, the angel did answer Yaakov's question, for the angel's name was, "Why do you ask my name." As is commonly known, a name symbolizes an individual's essence (See Yoma 83b; Brachos 7b; Shmuel I 25:25; MaHaRal, Netzach Yisrael p. 78.). Since this angel was none other than the Yetzer HaRa, his name represents his true nature: "Don't ask questions; don't try to fathom my essence. Remain in the dark without looking where you're going, without perceiving the pitfalls that threaten your spiritual well-being. Continue to glide routinely through life, never attempting to grasp the True essence and intent of existence."

This world is comprised largely of illusions propagated by the Yetzer HaRa, whose sworn mission is to delude and confuse us, virtually blinding us from the Truth. To the extent that our vision is obscured, we cannot know which way to turn, and are thus rendered unable to grow.

Accordingly, the Torah describes their skirmish as, Vaye'avek Ish Imo -- "And a man struggled with him." The root "Avak" also means dust, a dust that ascended all the way to Hashem's Throne of Glory (Chullin 91a). The Kli Yakar comments that it was the Yetzer HaRa's objective to cloud the vision of Truth from Yaakov's sight, to hamper Yaakov from identifying his True purpose here in this world -- i.e. to achieve an intimate closeness with, and a profound cognizance of, Hashem -- and so he sent out a smoke screen.

This, writes the Kli Yakar, is suggested by an alternate name of this angel, Sama'el (read but not spoken). The root, Sama, means to blind. When combined with the name of Hashem, E-l, it connotes the conspiracy to blind people from "seeing" and perceiving Hashem. This is the very essence of the Yetzer HaRa, and it was to this end that he attacked and almost destroyed Yaakov.

And this, in a nutshell, is the story of Chanuka. The Greeks and their Jewish collaborators wished to pick up where the Yetzer HaRa left off. Their stated mission was not to destroy Torah, simply to dim its bright light. L'hashkicham Torasecha -- to eclipse the radiance of Torah. The light of Chanuka promotes awareness, Truth and growth. By exposing the illusions for what they are, we achieve clarity, and true awareness of the Divine.

"For a mitzva is a candle, and Torah is light (Mishlei 6:23)."