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Vayishlach(Genesis 32:4-36:43)

Call My Bluff

Parshat Vayishlach tells of Jacob wrestling with an angel, and Jacob asks the angel an unusual question: "What's your name?"

The great commentator Sforno, who lived in 16th century Italy, explains that this angel represented the Yetzer Hara, the tendency toward undisciplined behavior.

The Yetzer Hara always challenges a person in the area that he needs improvement. So by asking the angel's name, Jacob is in effect asking - "In what area are you challenging me?" Jacob wanted to know in what area he needs to improve.

The angel gives Jacob the following answer: "Don't ask my name."

This answer gives us insight into the ways of the Yetzer Hara - always trying to keep us from seeking out the truth!

On another level, the Yetzer Hara was saying: "I have no name – I'm nothing." In other words, a person's drive for undisciplined behavior is really an illusion.

This teaches us an important lesson for our own lives. When we're struggling to do the right thing - e.g., not cheating, not being critical of others – and we hear that little voice arguing inside our head, that's when we can remind ourselves that the Yetzer Hara "has no name" - it's just a bluff and we can just go right ahead and ignore it.

The story is told of the saintly Chafetz Chaim starting to get out of bed on a cold morning in Poland, when the Yetzer Hara began arguing with him, saying, "Stay in bed - you're an old man!" At which point the Chafetz Chaim jumped out of bed and retorted, "That may be true, but you're even older!"

December 10, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Anonymous, December 14, 2016 11:57 AM

Excellent article and very well written! Thanks for posting!

(5) Anonymous, November 25, 2015 2:16 PM

Great article! Thanks for posting!

(4) Anonymous, December 3, 2014 12:46 PM

This is EXCELLENT! Thank you so much for posting this and thank G-d for Torah, Judaism, and those who help spread His word, like you! :-)

(3) Anonymous, November 24, 2007 9:46 AM

what about faith?

The wrestling, with the angel could signify a lack of faith or committment to our way of life. Jacob ask the question because he wants confirmation that he is indeed on the right track and repeats it for conformation; that he is indeed the chosen one. The inner voice is the reasons of deception he has herd thus far as to how he came to be not it is clearly his decision to go on. Many of face this challenge, do we go right ahead or stay still or go back to Laban an unscrupulous father-in-law yet, a safty net. His decision to go forward is what earned him his name of YISRAEl

(2) bennny, November 20, 2007 9:06 AM

this is good

this is a very good thing but it is not very good to say in a assembely in school

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