• Northeast Kollel

Vayishlach: The Song of the Yetzer Hara


By Rabbi Yonah Burr


ויותר יעקב לבדו ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר. וירא כי לא יכל לו ויגע בכף ירכו ותקע כף ירך יעקב בהאבקו עמו. ויאמר שלחני כי עלה השחר ויאמר לא אשלחך כי אם ברכתני.
Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the socket of his hip. Jacob’s hip-socket was dislocated as he wrestled with him. Then he said “Let me go, for dawn has broken.” He said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The Meforshim explain that the ‘man’ was none other than the Guardian Angel of Eisav. Eisav -- Yaakov's nemesis who sought to kill him -- was on the way. Hashem sent Eisav’s Angel to confront Yaakov and wrestle with him. Our Sages see this as a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil -- the struggle that exists inside all of us between the Yeitzer Hatov and the Yeitzer Hara.


Yaakov emerges injured but victorious and grabs onto his opponent. The angel beseeches Yaakov to let him go because the dawn has arrived. What is the rush? Where does the angel need to be? Rashi tells us that the angel, the Yeitzer Hara, needs to go back to his place in Heaven to recite Shira to Hashem. It is his time to lead the song in Shamayim.


What is the connection between the battle with Yaakov and the angel’s turn to say Shira?


Rav Dessler explains that Shira, song, is the expression of completion. When one sees the end result of his efforts, they feel fulfilled and are moved to song, just as the Jewish People sang Shira when they saw the splitting of the sea and their salvation from Mitzrayim.


The Gemara in Bava Basra makes an astonishing statement: The Yeitzer Hara tempts us for the sake of Heaven. He has no intention to actually cause us to sin, but to challenge us so we can grow. Thus, when Yaakov overcame his confrontation, that was the greatest ‘nachas’ for the Yeitzer Hara! He had just fulfilled his mission! Therefore, whenever a Jew passes his test, it becomes truly a time to say Shira.


There are three levels of overcoming the Yetzer Hara. The first level is to constantly battle with our Yeitzer. The second level is to conquer it and squash it. The third, and highest, is to serve Hashem with it. Each temptation and urge we feel is no more than an "alert" to show us which areas needs strengthening and to where we should direct our efforts. And then -- the Yeitzer Hara feels fulfilled, because when we defeat him, he has truly served his purpose!


Let the game begin. May the best man win!


Have a wonderful Shabbos!