We find that Yakov while crossing a river at night, Yakov remains behind the rest of his family, and is accosted by Eisav’s guardian angel, which has many forms – Satan, the angel of death, the evil inclination etc:
וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב, לְבַדּוֹ; וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ, עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר. וַיַּרְא, כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ, וַיִּגַּע, בְּכַף-יְרֵכוֹ; וַתֵּקַע כַּף-יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב, בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּוֹ. וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֵנִי, כִּי עָלָה הַשָּׁחַר; וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אֲשַׁלֵּחֲךָ, כִּי אִם-בֵּרַכְתָּנִי. וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, מַה-שְּׁמֶךָ; וַיֹּאמֶר, יַעֲקֹב. וַיֹּאמֶר, יַעֲקֹב לא יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ–כִּי, אִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל: כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹהִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים, וַתּוּכָל. וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב, וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה-נָּא שְׁמֶךָ, וַיֹּאמֶר, לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי; וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ, שָׁם. – And Yakov was left alone, and a man grappled with him until daybreak. And when he saw that he could not overcome him, he struck his hip, and dislocated his hip, as he grappled with him. And he said, “Let me go, because dawn is breaking!” – but Yakov said “I will not let you go, until you bless me”. So he said to him, “What is your name?”, and he replied, “Yakov”. And he said, “No longer shall your name be Yakov, for your name is Yisrael, because you have mastery with God and men, and you have prevailed”. And Yakov asked, and said, “Now tell me your name?”‘ and he replied, “Why is it you ask for my name?”‘ and he blessed him there. (32:25-30)
Rashi explains how the word וַיֵּאָבֵק – to wrestle/grapple, comes from the word אבק, dust, called so for the dust that is kicked up when moving and grappling for leverage. There is a Midrash that the dust kicked up from this epic struggle, reached all the way to Hashem’s throne.
R Tzvi Meir Silberberg explains how this relates to all of our struggles. People think that Judaism is about results, an end product. Not so. It was the not the victory that went up to Heaven; that remained with Yakov. But the struggle, the dust kicked up, went straight up to Hashem.
No one is born perfect. We are human, and we struggle. It is the human condition, and it’s what we are here for.
It is apt that this struggle occurs at night, which is darkness, the uncertain, the unknown. When confronted with light, which is truth and reality, the night is dispelled. This angel has to leave at sunrise, to sing in front of Hashem.
The Gemara in Suka teaches how at the end of days, Hashem will slaughter the Satan, and the righteous will cry because they will see it as a mountain, and they don’t understand how they overcame it, but the evil will cry because it will be as if it were a hair, and lament their lack of control and discipline to resist it. The Yetzer Hara is subjective.
The Steipler compares this to someone who hasn’t seen their family in a long time, and is certain that when they meet, they will all be happy, and never argue or fight again. It will never last. The imagination stage is always better that the reality, because when reality hits, the illusions disappear.
The angel had to leave when confronted with reality, and Yakov asks for his name. He asks for his name. The angel seems to refuse a real answer, “Why is it you ask for my name?”.
R’ Leib Chasman explains that this is the essence of what it is – nothing. It cannot be defined, because it’s almost a reflection of ourselves. There is no answer to what is, just what we make it into.