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Thought for the Day: The Yeitzer HaRa Will Take Any Opening, No Matter How Small

I have never sat down to read a Kli Yakar that didn't fill me with a sense of fulfillment and deeper understanding.  The Kli Yakar tends to be one of the longer m'forshim on Chumash and generally uses the pasuk as an opportunity to discuss a topic depth, rather than just p'shat/drash in that pasuk.  The Kli Yakar on the all night struggle between Yaakov Avinu and the malach is particularly long (even by Kli Yakar standards), but very well worth the time invested.  The Kli Yakar, in fact, begins by noting that so much as been written on this epic struggle that he doesn't have enough paper to given even a summary.  However, he continues, since there is so much to learn from this event that he is going to wade in with his insights.

The Kli Yakar begins by noting that the consensus is that the angel was Sama'el; aka Malach HaMeves, aka Yeitzer HaRah, aka Sar shel Esaiv.  (Yeah, pretty creepy that the spiritual energy that drives western society is the angel of death; also pretty obvious, I suppose.)  He is called "Samael" -- Samech/Mem/Aleph/Lamed because he accomplishes his by dazzling/blinding (לְסַמֵא) the intellect.  His name alludes to this via a technique that was new to me (but not to many of my friends, apparently) where one replaces each letter by the one following in the aleph-bais.  In this case, that comes to ענבם, which mean "grapes".  That is, Yeitzer HaRah provides all the fuel you need to become intellectually "drunk" and therefore easily driven by your desires instead of your head.

Why did the angel choose this particular time to attack?  The Yeitzer HaRah is compared to a fly.  A fly is not instrumented to break into healthy flesh, so it waits for an opportunity to find an open wound into which it can settle itself.  Once settled there, it takes up residence and widens the wound, feeding on the dying flesh.  So too the Yeitzer HaRah; it can't break into where there is spiritual health, but give it the slightest opening and he is all over that in an instant.  Yaakov had gone back for inconsequential vessels.  Even though Chazal praise the tzadik who is so careful even with the smallest gift from HaShem, the Yeitzer HaRah still sees this as an opportunity to widen this opening of desire for things in this world.  Of course, Yaakov was completely without thoughts of this world for its own sake when he went back for those vessels, but potential was there.  That's why the struggle with the Yeitzer HaRah took all night -- ie, until the dawning of the light of mashiach.  When the Yeitzer HaRah saw that it could not make the smallest penetration into Yaakov's spiritual being, he took one last shot to weaken Yaakov Avinu's ability to penetrate to the depths of the wisdom of Torah.  Even that plan was ultimately foiled, but the healing from that required the full light of the ultimate redemption.

What particularly struck me (again, actually) was how single minded the Yeitzer HaRah really is.  Chance of success is not relevant to him; like a fly he just keeps buzzing around looking for the tiniest of openings.


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