Vayetze: Chapter 4

Samael and the wife of harlotry


This is a discussion of the dual nature of evil, as revealed by Jacob's story. The Klipot, or 'shells' of negativity, have both male and female aspects. The text personifies the softer, female aspect of evil as a whore - "the wife of harlotry" - dressed up in her finery to seduce men. A foolish man is seduced by evil's glittering facade and by distracting displays of false affection. After an individual has consorted with evil, its illusion of softness melts away, replaced by the hard and punitive male aspect, [do not pronounce this name] Samael, who is an avenger and a killer. Jacob, a wise man, is tempted by the evil's feminine charms, and is almost seduced by the Other Side - but at the last moment, he sees its true nature and turns away. Samael is so vexed at losing a victim that he fights Jacob, as it is written, "And there wrestled a man with him..." Jacob is strong enough to defeat Samael, yet he is also forever scarred by the struggle when the demon "touched the hollow of his thigh." This mark is his badge of honor.


Far too frequently, we fall prey to the illusions of our material existence, and this is never without cost. Our egos may be seduced by flattery and opportunities for gaining prestige and honor. Pride and social pressures make true spiritual growth and fulfillment almost impossible to achieve, setting the stage for perhaps the greatest of all metaphysical battles, the struggle with our own ego. The sages understood this challenge, and gave us the ability to invoke the might of Jacob through the Hebrew letters that compose this passage. As we are strengthened in the face of evil, we gain the power to see through its attractive façade, and to overcome the temptations that hinder our journey towards the Light.