Have you ever experienced "phone paranoia"? It's apparent when you mistakenly dial an incorrect number, and whilst asking absent-mindedly whom you have called you are answered defensively, "whom are you trying to call?" This guarded reply shows that people feel that by revealing their name they expose themselves to communication attacks. If they feel this to be a legitimate fear, why then do they allow their name and number to be freely advertised in the local telephone directory? But humans have "hang-ups" and can hardly be blamed if they suffer unreasonable anxieties in today's violent world. Even Richard Nixon allegedly had a sign on his desk in his office in the White House which read "You would also suffer paranoia if the whole world hated you", and who after all would dislike Nixon!
But when we find an angel refusing to give his name after being asked who he is, we can not shrug it off as some "celestial apprehension disorder." We must take a deeper look into his surprising rejection.In this week's parsha we find the battle between Yakov and the angel of Esau. Although injured, Yakov vanquishes his opponent and a diplomatic discussion ensues in which the angel gives Yakov the well-deserved title Yisroel and a blessing. Yet in the ongoing dialogue we find a puzzling inquiry and response: " Yakov inquired, and he said, "Divulge, if you please, your name." And he said, "Why then do you enquire of my name?" And he blessed him there." (Ber. 32:30)
What could Yakov have possibly gained by knowing the angel's name? Furthermore, if the angel did in fact have a name by which Yakov could later identify him, what prevented him from disclosing it? Our Sages reveal that this battle was not a momentary conflict. Rather, it represented the ongoing struggle between man's moral dictates--actualized by Yakov--and the power of earthly corruption and iniquities understood through the angel of Esau. Since the struggle ended with our pious forefather being the victor, Yakov grabbed the opportunity to expose to all future generations of G-d fearing warriors what kind of arsenal they have challenging them. He therefore asked the angel to divulge his name, ie. his essence and strengths. The angel duly answered with "Why do you ask?" in other words saying, "My power to entice the world to the depths of sin is confusion." As soon as this battle of morals begins, imaginary pleasure and pumping adrenaline is fired into the otherwise logical human mind. However, by merely entrenching ourselves with the simple logic as to what extent a momentary illicit pleasure could destroy eternally, the battle is won!
The Talmud states that a person only commits sin if he is overcome with a spirit of foolishness (Sotah 3a). Just as in our financial pursuits we calculate and recalculate before investing in relatively short-term gains, for our eternal portfolio we owe it to ourselves to push confusion aside and answer the call of uncompromising honourable standards without fear.
Rabbi Sipper is a close friend of ShortVort.com. Further divrei Torah from the Rov can be found on his yeshiva's website at www.ohravraham.com