By Rabbi Michael Skobac
“Jacob asked him, and said: Please tell me your name. He said: Why do you ask my name? He then blessed him there” (Genesis 32:30).
In this very mysterious episode, Jacob struggled with an angel throughout the night. Our sages identify this angel as the guardian angel of Esav that is identified with the Satan or our Yetzer Hara (inner adversary).
In the morning, the angel asked to be released from Jacob’s hold. Jacob refused unless the angel would bless him. Jacob is told that his name will now be Israel, and he asked the angel what his name was. The angel strangely answered: Why do want to know my name?
R’ Leib Chasman provided some insight into this bizarre exchange. We know that in the Torah, someone’s name captures the core of who he is. Jacob was seeking to understand the true nature of the Satan – how does it exert so much influence over human beings?
The angel’s rebuff, “Why do you ask my name?” was really a statement that there’s no point in asking about his makeup because he’s one big bluff – he’s all illusion. There’s nothing to see.
The Yetzer Hara is fantasy that’s the product of human lust and desire and not an entity external to us.
R’ Chaim Keller takes a slightly different approach here. The Satan is an angel sent to test us. He’s saying that there’s no point in trying to pin it down to one name because it is constantly changing its tactics. It doesn’t only have one face and one way of tempting us.
Brought By Rabbi Michael Skobac
Rabbi Michael Skobac had been involved with Jews for Judaism (Canada) since 1989 and currently serves as its Director of Education and Counselling. He is a leading authority on missionaries, cults and issues relating to Jewish continuity and Jewish spirituality. Rabbi Skobac's publications include Missionary Impossible; Counter-Missionary Survival Guide; The DaVinci Code: A Jewish Perspetive; and Intermarriage: Is There Ligth at teh End of the Tunnel?
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Republished by Angelique Sijbolts with permission for the Noahide Academy.