The Need for Blessing by Ms. Rochi Lerner – Science Department

(2004/5765) 

Parshat Vayishlach relates the story of Yaakov’s
struggle with the guardian angel of Esav. This story can be
understood on many levels. The Chachamim teach us that
every nation has its own angel that acts as an intermediary
between it and Hashem. There are, however, two nations
that are unique and different. One is Bnei Esav, the epitome
of evil, whose angel is the representation of spiritual evil- the
Satan himself. The other is Bnei Yisrael, Hashem’s chosen
people, who have no need for an intermediary. Their task is
to perfect themselves spiritually and connect to Hashem.
Consequently, this interchange between Yaakov and the
angel is the primal struggle being waged between good and
evil, between man’s quest for spiritual growth and the
determined efforts of Satan to undermine him.
But there is more to this interchange than man’s
struggle with the forces of evil. Why does Yaakov say to the
angel (Bereshit 32:27): “I will not let you go unless you bless
me”? And why does the angel answer Yaakov with the
question, “What is your name?” Is it possible that the angel
does not know Yaakov’s name?
Rabbi Kalonymos Kalman Shapira (the Piaseczner
Rebbe), who perished as Rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, uses
this story to communicate a valuable lesson. We know that
the lives of our forefathers are living lessons for us. Yaakov
had just battled the angel and damaged his sciatic nerve.
The angel prepares to leave, and Yaakov stops him and asks,
“Is that it? Is this the fate of Bnei Yaakov that they are to
suffer, to endure damage and pain, with their reward simply
being their own survival? Is their post-suffering time to be
identical to the period before? I will not let this happen!”
Yaakov demands a Beracha of this angel who has wounded
him. Yaakov was not only seeking the survival of his people
and a respite from their enemies; he was also demanding that
Hashem grant them salvation. It is not enough to endure and
emerge from suffering; we are to gain spiritually and connect
on an even deeper and more profound level to Hashem.
Why did the angel ask Yaakov for his name following
Yaakov’s demand for a Beracha? The name “Yaakov” means
“he that holds onto the heel of.” Yaakov was given this name
because he entered the world holding on to the heel of his
twin brother, Esav. This position had been characteristic of
Yaakov throughout his life. Yaakov’s victories came on the
heels of having been trodden on by Esav. Now, however, the
angel of Esav says to Yaakov that this will no longer be true.
This communication takes the form of a simple question:
“What is your name?” Embedded in this question is the
notion that one’s identity is defined by one’s name. We say of
an individual, “Kishmo, Ken Hu,” which means, “He is as his
name”. An individual’s name encapsulates his qualities. The
angel says to Yaakov, “There is no need for me to bless you,
for your name shall no longer be Yaakov, but Yisrael.”
Bereshit 32:29 states: “No longer will it be said that your
name is Yaakov, but Yisrael, for you have striven with the
Divine and with man and you have overcome.” This name
change denotes a sea change in Yaakov’s relationship with
his brother Esav and the world. He is no longer the hanger-

on, the downtrodden one. Instead, the angel communicates to
Yaakov that his victory is assured and that he will persevere against
his enemies, emerging not only alive but stronger and closer to
Hashem. He will be a “Sar”, which means both “struggle” and “lord.”
Even before Yaakov’s struggle with Esav’s angel, he was a lord over
himself, having struggled with his own impulses and desires. Now,
having waged and won the physical battle with evil, he becomes
Yisrael, the man who bravely faces both men and angels and
governs his own spirit.

The Sun Will Come Out by Avi Wollman

Halacha of the Week