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    When Yaakov wrestled with the malach, we know the identity of Yaakov’s antagonist. He was saro shel Eisav, the angel of Eisav. He is also otherwise known as Samo’el or, as the Chassidim say in short, the samach/mem. Samo’el has other aliases. He is known as the malach hamaves and indeed, when the shvatim abandoned Yaakov as he crossed the ford of Yabbok, the malach hamaves tried to collect Yaakov. However, the Torah testifies, “Vayar ki lo yachol lo – He saw that he couldn’t prevail over Yaakov,” as we are taught “Yaakov Avinu lo meis – Yaakov Avinu never died” because he was the man of Torah. As it further states about Yaakov, he was the “Ish tam yosheiv oholim – The complete man who dwelled in the [Torah] tents (of Sheim v’Eiver).” Therefore, the simple reason why this malach is called Samo’el is because he is the sam-Keil, the poison of G-d, the instrument that brings death to mankind.

    The Gemora in Bava Basra elaborates further. “Hu hayeitzer hara, hu haSatan, hu hamalach hamaves – The Evil Inclination, the prosecutor and the executor are the same entity.” It is in his role as Yeitzer Hara that the Kli Yakar offers us the following understanding. The Evil Inclination is called Samo’el, spelled samach/mem/alef lammed, which is an anagram of the word ‘lesamei,’ lammed/samach/mem/alef, which means ‘to blind.’ Thus we see that it is the craft of the Yeitzer Hara to blind a person from seeing the real truths of life. The Kli Yakar adds further that this is why, when Yaakov and the malach were fighting, the posek says, “Vayei’aveik ish imo.” The word vayei’aveik literally means to kick up dust for when one fights with his opponent he kicks up dust towards his face to obscure his vision. This is the diabolical strategy of the Evil Inclination: to cloak our vision of reality with the mirages of the hedonism and materialism of this world.

    With this in mind, as we approach Chanukah, this is the reason why the Medrash says “Choshech zeh Yavan – Darkness is the Syrian-Greeks.” At first glance, this is a mystifying statement for Chazal say, “Yaft Elokim l’Yefes – Hashem will make Yefes beautiful,” and the Gemora elaborates “Yafyuso shel Yefes, Yavan shemah – The beauty of Yefes is known as Yavan.” The very word Yavan has the same letters as noy which means beauty! So how can we refer to the Olympic beauty of the Syrian-Greeks as darkness?

    This is the answer. It is the external, fleeting beauty of the Syrian-Greeks that distracts one from the eternal rewards of Olam HaBa. This is why we pass over the new-fangled halogen, mercury-vapor and LED lights and instead favor the old-fashioned, relatively weak flickering oil lights for our Chanukah celebration. We are making the strong statement that our illumination is the ancient wisdom of the Torah and not the modern bright lights of today’s society.

    It is the job of the G-d fearing person to combat the blinding attempts of the Yeitzer Hara at every turn of our life. The Yeitzer Hara tries to blind us with the lure of cigarettes and spirits, with the excitements of gambling and speeding, with the distractions of the media and computer gaming. May it be the will of Hashem that we succeed in piercing the darkness and in that merit may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.