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A Night to Remember
Yaakov Avinu transferred his entire family and possessions across the Yabbok River to protect them from Esav. Afterwards, he returned alone to retrieve some earthenware jugs that he had forgotten. The Saro shel Esav, the Angel of Esav seeing Yaakov Avinu all alone in the dark of night, realised that this was the perfect opportunity to attack him. However he met his match! In fact Yaakov had the upper hand and ulitimately, the malach (angel) had to plead with Yaakov to allow him to return to the celestial heavens.
Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman zt'l hy"d writes that the Saro shel Esav is bent on destroying the Jewish people. Why then, he asks, did he wait two extra generations to attack? Yaakov was the third Av and through him the nation was completed. Avraham had Yishmael and Yitzchak had Esav, however all of Yaakov's children were righteous. Would it not have been easier to attack Avraham or Yitzchak, when the Jewish people were still in their infancy?
R' Elchanan answers with a mashal. When two nations go to war, even though one side wins the battle one day, the next day their opponent can rally and defeat them. This changing of fortunes can continue for some time. The only way to ensure victory is to destroy the enemy's stockpile of weapons. Without arms, he is defenceless. Similarly, we are in a constant battle with the Yetzer Hara, evil inclination. The weapon that Hashem gave us for this struggle is limud Torah, Torah study. There is no other defence. Even if we would be engaged in prayer or other mitzvos - anything other than Torah study - the Yetzer Hara would not be concerned. Without Torah we are easy prey for him. However if we pursue our studies, then he becomes alarmed. For this is the tool that will lead to his defeat. Therefore he concentrates all his efforts upon hampering learning.
We learn this lesson from the Saro shel Esav. Avraham represented chesed, while Yitzchak stood for Avoda, serving Hashem. The Yetzer hara felt unchallenged. However Yaakov symbolised limud Torah, thus he was a threat. This is why he attacked Yaakov Avinu.
In a similar vein, the Chafetz Chaim said "Dem Yetzer hora art nit, a Yid zal fasten, un veinen, un daven a gantzer tag, avi nit leren." The Yetzer hara doesn't care if a Jew would fast, cry and pray all day long, as long as he does not learn Torah."
When morning came, it was apparent that Yaakov had won the struggle and indeed he held the malach captive. The angel begged, "Let me go, for morning has come." Chazal explain that he asked to be released because since his creation, he had never sang Shira (praise) to Hashem and today it was finally his turn to join the heavenly chorus (Chullin 91b). The Michtav Me'Eliyahu asks, was it merely coincidental that the malach's turn to sing came on the morning that Yaakov defeated him? He explains that Shira reflects sh'leimus, perfection. When a being fulfils its purpose, then it is time to recite Shira. The Satan wasn't sent to destroy Yaakov, rather he was sent to aid him. If one conquers his yetzer hara, then the yetzer hara's mission has been fulfilled. The Saro shel Esav came to impart this message to Yaakov and his descendants. The main struggle with our Yetzer hara is over limud HaTorah. Hashem gave Yaakov the strength to defeat the malach to show us that if we remain steadfast we too can overcome him.
Let us remember the lesson of that night and not give the Yetzer hara an easy time. Let us take up arms and strengthen our limud HaTorah.
Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2001 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson
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