After struggling with the angel Yaakov wanted to know what the angel's name was (Bereishit 32:30):

וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב, וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה-נָּא שְׁמֶךָ, וַיֹּאמֶר, לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי; וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ, שָׁם

And Jacob asked and said, "Now tell me your name," and he said, "Why is it that you ask for my name?" And he blessed him there

The angel doesn't tell him a name because angels' names change (Rashi):

למה זה תשאל: אין לנו שם קבוע, משתנין שמותינו, הכל לפי מצות עבודת השליחות שאנו משתלחים:

Why is it that you ask: (Gen. Rabbah 78:4) We have no permanent name. Our names change, (all) according to the service we are commanded [to do] in the mission upon which we are sent

What is the reason that Yaakov wanted to know the angel's name in the first place and what would Yaakov have gained in knowing it? The angel's answer is strange; by the angel's logic should no angel have a name? Although angels may not have a permanent name couldn't Yaakov have been asking the angel for his current name (i.e. concerning his current mission) and if so why did the angel not reveal the name? This implies that Yaakov was enquiring for the angels fixed name, which he didn't have. If so, why did Yaakov think that the angel had a permanent name?!


3 Answers 3


Sholom Mordechai Hakohen Schwadron (Hebrew: הרב שלום מרדכי הכהן שבדרון‎) (1912–21 December 1997) edited and published two famous mussar texts composed by his teachers — Ohr Yahel by Rabbi Leib Chasman and Lev Eliyahu by Rabbi Elyah Lopian.

Our Rav quoted Rav Chasman as having stated that the malach was stating that this is his name. When an enemy general surrenders, he turns over his weapon to the victor. When Yaakov asked the name, he was asking, what is the power and methodology of the Yeitzer Harah. The malach answered that he could be successful only if he could prevent a person from questioning him. That way, he can fool the person into going along with him blindly.


The Ohr HaChaim writes that since Ya’akov said “Tell me your name now” because he knew that angels have no permanent name and for this reason when he asked the angel his name he explained that he wished to know the angel’s name at the current moment, to this the angel responded “Why this?” - why do you ask me my name with this explanation (that you want to know my current name)? Granted that I asked for your current name, but that was because it was in order to tell you that your name will no longer be Ya’akov but Yisrael, but why do you need to ask my name with this explanation? You should simply ask “What is your name” (without the word "now").

Alternatively, the angel was asking “Why this” - Why are you asking me this thing, to tell you the name that I am called now, since it is not a permanent name and another time you will need to ask for my name again?'


I would like to propose the possibility that the angel with which Jacob wrestled is actually a proxy for G-d himself. As evidence that angels can be a proxy for G-d, consider the first few verses of Parasha Vayeira (Genesis 18). It states that Hashem appeared to Abraham, but in the next verse Abraham lifted his eyes and saw three men (angels). For Abraham and Jacob, the angels were a vision of G-d.

When Jacob asked the angel for his name in Genesis 32:30, he was denied, and instead received a new name (יִשְׂרָאֵל) for himself. On the other hand, when Moses asked for G-d's name in Exodus 3:13, G-d actually gives him an answer, (אֶהְיֶה). The difference between Jacob and Moses can explain this observation. Deuteronomy 34 relates that no prophet ever arose in Israel like Moses, and commentators such as the Rambam also state that Moses was the greatest prophet. Jacob was a Patriarch and a prophet, but did not come as close to G-d as Moses. Therefore, he was not ready to receive a particular name associated with G-d from the angel.

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