Battling Evil in All Its Guises:
- a Fly
- a Loving Brother
- an Enemy Armed to the Teeth
- a Terrifying Force that Attacks You with a Power and Skill Far Greater than Your
Own When You are Most Vulnerable
- and Someone Who Fights You by Tossing into Your Eyes Something as Seemingly
Insignificant as Dust
….as if demonstrating brotherhood and love, yet even in this, which is in contrast to [Esav’s standard attitude toward Yaakov], we still see this contrary to how it appears – it’s confusing because “he is going out toward you. [As if Esav is taking the first steps toward reconciliation.] And so Yaakov said, “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav, who is presenting himself as a brother. But really, he is Esav in all his evil and a deceitful hunter. And Hashem is to me as One Who helps me against those who present themselves as helpful, loving people while the hatred is hidden in their heart.”
The word ish, which is generally translated as “man,” is also the name of a type of angel. (Similar to how malachim can mean either “messengers” or “angels.”)
This is a famous verse that has also been made into a very uplifting song in Hebrew.
The Kli Yakar explains:
….the majority of Sages decided that this angel is Same"l, the angelic representative of Esav, who is called “Same"l Esav” because all his desire and his salvation is to blind the eyes of a person and to strike him with blindness and to blind his mind’s eye until one who looks can no longer see the Truth and come toward and see the Face of Hashem in the secret meanings Hashem hid in the Torah for those who truly fear Him because [Same"l] is satan (the main Heavenly prosecutor), he is the Angel of Death, and he is the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) [Bava Batra 17]….all his schemes are meant to blind the eyes of a person until he cannot even see the Sun.
….because a fly will not just squat on a person’s intact flesh because his mouth does not have the ability to create a new opening in intact flesh. Therefore, the fly must squat between the edges in a place where he finds a small opening. He will squat there and expand the opening of the wound. Likewise, the Yetzer Hara does not bond with a person who is spiritually intact and has not “broken through his own fence” and has not made an opening for sin and has banned sin. And if a person is whole in all his deeds, then he has no affiliation or dealings with the Yetzer Hara because the Yetzer Hara cannot overcome him at all.
However, when a person himself makes a small opening….even with a small transgression, then the Yetzer Hara comes immediately to bond with him and says to him, “You are my bone and my flesh.”
….and so Same"l, the Guardian Angel of Esav….could not bond with Yaakov as long there was no sin in Yaakov….
….but when Yaakov went out a tiny bit from the “fence” of histapkut (being satisfied with whatever he had), then “Yaakov remained alone.” And there are those who say that he was trapped in a place of danger because night is the time when all the mizikin (harmful spiritual entities) gather together and Yaakov remained alone at night for the sake of “small bottles” (pachim katanim)….and for the sake of a small item considered totally discardable, he remained alone in a place of danger.
Then Same"l said, “Aha! I have found a sin* for myself.” And Yaakov started to descend spiritually and made himself a little bit blinded, for who is blind like those who love money?....And then Same"l said, “Now is the time to battle and to wrap my arms around him (l’chabek). And behold, I will increase impurity and fill his eyes with dust and dirt so that his mind’s eye will be completely blinded.
The Kli Yakar sees the event as a metaphor for us all to understand what this evil force wants to do us:
….he wanted to blind the mind’s eye like dust does as it rises and blinds the eye of a person. Likewise, it occurred to him to blind the mind’s eye in order to bring a person to the denial of the Supreme God.
It is this refusal to expand the mind to embrace and accept impossible truths (like how Hashem is behind EVERYTHING, yet we still have free choice and are even rewarded or punished - or forgiven, if we do teshuvah - for those decisions) that is the basic mistake of every other religion.
Judaism forces your thinking to become more complex, yet clearer and simpler at the same time.
The evil force described here does not operate outside of Hashem's Grasp. It actually serves Hashem. The reason why Jewish history is literally bursting with so many people who were able to attain unfathomable levels of spiritual greatness and goodness is because of their battles with this overwhelming and overreaching force of evil that comes to us in many disguises and guises without ever giving us a break.
Paradoxically, without this Esavic force, we would never even have the chance to achieve our true spiritual potential.
May we never have to face the worst of these battles and may we experience victory every single time at every single level of the battle.
(*The Malbim defines the word used here - aven - as a sin that results from a certain impetuousness, unrestrained by the "fence" of correct behavior and belief.)
Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Luntschitz (1550-1619) lived in Bohemia (which is today Poland and Czechoslovakia). He served as rabbi and dayan and wrote several books, the most well-known being his commentary on the Chumash known as the Kli Yakar.
The Malbim (1809-1879) was Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel who was born in Russia and served as a rabbi all over Eastern Europe. He was bitterly fought by the Reform Movement for most of his adult life, even suffering brief imprisonment over a false accusation in Rumania by wealthy German Reformers. Fortunately, he left us an amazing commentary on the entire Torah among other valuable works he composed.
This is my own translation and any errors are also mine.