Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Vayishlach


by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

"And Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." [32:25]

Jewish sources teach that two forces struggle within each of us - the Yetzer HaTov, the good inclination (what we might term our "conscience"), is locked in a constant battle with the Yetzer HaRa, the bad inclination. Our Sages explain that the "man" locked in battle with Yaakov was the spiritual guardian of Esav - and just as Esav was Yaakov's physical adversary, his guardian is our spiritual adversary, our evil inclination.

The Avnei Nezer offers a profound insight into the Yetzer HaRa, based upon a Talmudic passage which discusses its battle with Yaakov. On Chulin 91a, two Rabbis argue about the physical form which was given to this spiritual force. One opinion is that the Yetzer HaRa looked like an idol worshipper, while the second opinion was just the opposite - the Yetzer HaRa looked like a great scholar!

The Avnei Nezer justifies both opinions. Sometimes, he says, the Yetzer HaRa comes to us like an idolator, someone diametrically opposed to Judaism and to doing that which is morally correct. The idolator tells us to ignore Jewish values, ignore our consciences, and to sin - straight out.

Sometimes, however, the same Yetzer HaRa comes to us dressed like a scholar. It tries to explain to us how doing a particular transgression isn't merely OK - it's a Mitzvah! To give one possible example, someone who feels wronged by a particular businessman will often feel that he or she has a Mitzvah to warn others not to get ripped off - thus leading to a violation of the laws of Lashon Hara, evil speech. This is the Yetzer HaRa dressed in scholar's garb, offering great justifications for immoral acts.

At the beginning of the parsha, Yaakov prays: "Rescue me please from the hand of my brother, the hand of Esav." [32:12] Commentators (the Bais HaLevi, Aznayim LaTorah, and others) explain that Yaakov's prayer dealt with two possibilities - he asked to be saved whether Esav came as his loving brother, or as the wicked Esav. We need to think the same way regarding the corresponding spritual force: we need to beware of the Yetzer Hara, whether it comes to us looking like an idol worshipper, or like a scholar!


 






ARTICLES ON NETZAVIM AND VAYEILECH:

View Complete List

Timely Words
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5762

A Timeless Moment
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

This Time, Let's Do It Right
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5764

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Not Hiding, But Seek
Shlomo Katz - 5773

The Secret of Teshuvah
Shlomo Katz - 5772

A Hundred Bucks vs. Regrets
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

> After the Ashes
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

The Good, The Bad, and The Ready
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766

Even Hashem Repents
Shlomo Katz - 5764

ArtScroll

Paying Attention to the Voice of the Almighty
- 5767

For the Love of G-d
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

Our Leaders Define Us
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5772

Looking for a Chavrusah?

The 'New' of the New Year
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

A Poor Man's Prayer
Shlomo Katz - 5759

Waking Up in Time
Rabbi Label Lam - 5762

Falsehood Has No Legs
Shlomo Katz - 5758



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information