My father taught us a long while ago a profound lesson about those who hate us. He told us to look carefully at the account of Yaakov and his struggle with the evil angel. The angel asks Yaakov his name, and Yaakov is forthright with his answer. Then Yaakov asks the angel for his name and the angel replies [Parshas Vayishlach, 32:30] “Why do you ask for my name?”
Rashi comments that the angel was saying “we have no set name, our names change” based on the mission. The commentators have a field day with this exchange in interpreting the message for the ages. One points out that the struggle against evil is different in every generation. In one decade it is forced conversion, in another its assimilation, in another its Greek mythology. The Satan doesn’t use the same trick in every time. He changes together with the time, so it is hard to pinpoint him down. He knows us, our goodness, that is the constant. He can ask us what we stand for and we can answer forthrightly, like our father Yaakov. ‘Tis all about G-dliness for Yaakov’s side of the coin. Yet, ask the Satan what it stands for, well that changes to lure us away in different ways.
My father taught us something else. The standard that we are held up to is not one our enemies necessarily live up to themselves. They expect us to explain our behavior, our beliefs, to give defense to our life choices. But when you ask them to do the same for theirs, they get edgy, “why are you asking?” they say defensively.
Which is why it was refreshing to see an Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post a few years ago that finally asked about the acceptability of the rabid anti-Haredi hatred in Israel.
My non-religious aunts and uncles tut-tut-tut if by chance one of us religious folks don’t visit when in their country, but none of their children visited us when they were in ours. They talk of the religious parasites who don’t serve in Tzahal, but the majority of cousins at this point found a way out of combat. Their children’s friends, the cream of the crop, invested in by the State supposedly for good cause unlike the religious parasites, move abroad and have their money here in the USA. Not a sound investment for Israel at all. But all that is okay, for they don’t have to justify themselves. Only religious are forced to do so. Same thing for thoughts and philosophies and lifestyle choices. Religious Jews are made to have to explain themselves, whereas any ludicrous ism is embraced blindly. If you choose to have your little boy grow payos, you are forced to explain, but if you allow the same-aged kid to grow a mohawk, ah then you are a cool parent. If you teach your kid Alef-Bays before English, you are a ghetto parent; but if you hire a French Nanny and teach the kid French before English, you are a progressive one. Like the angel confronting Yaakov, evil always wants us to do the ‘splaining and never wants to give an account of itself.
As in the account of the angel asking Yaakov his name and never giving the same courtesy of introducing himself, good is always asked for justification. Don’t be scared of speaking up your name. Yaakov did so and won.