Yaacov and Israel

We read in the parsha
“And he said to him, what is your name? And he said, Yaakov. And he said, No longer will you be called Yaacov ( Yaacov) , but rather Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed. (Genesis 32:28-29).

As we are to discover this naming was but an announcement of what was yet to be as we read further

” And God appeared to Yaacov again, when he came from Padan-Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, your name is Yaacov; no longer shall you be called Yaacov, but Israel shall be your name; and he called his name Israel. (ibid 35:9-10).

Yet we find that both names continue to play out in his life.At times the son of Isaac is called Yaacov and at times he is called Israel. Our sages in Masechet Berachot (13a), distinguish between the change in the name of “Avram” to “Avraham” and the change of “Yaacov” to “Israel” .The sages point out that once Avraham received his new name it became forbidden to call him by the name “Avram”. Regarding Yaacov we earn that the verse “No longer will you be called Yaacov ( Yaacov) , but rather Israel; (ibid 32:29 ) does not mean that the name Yaacov shall be obliterated, but that Israel shall be the principal name and Yaacov a secondary one.

Rabenu Bachaya explains that Yaacov is a name indicating physicality, while Israel is a name that is related more to the spiritual. Rashi explains that the name Yaacov indicates “subservience in exile”, while the name Israel indicates “courage and victory related to destiny” .The Meshech Chochma explains that the name Yaacov relates to the physical reality of this individual and of his descendants .The name Israel relates to their spiritual destiny and purpose .As a result when the prophet Isaiah says ” who created you O Yaacov, who formed you O Israel?” (Isaiah 43:1) ,he is describes Yaacov as being physically created while Israel is described as being formed and refined.

We must explore, then, why after Yaacov our forefather fights the angel of Esau and prevails, and is blessed with the name of “Israel” ,that we then read of his hardships as Yaacov. After Shimon and Levi avenge the kidnapping and rape of their sister Dina, Yaacov is very concerned and says to them, “‘You have troubled me, to make me odious unto the inhabitants of the land, even unto the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and I being few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and smite me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.” (Genesis 34:30)

What happened to Yaacov? Where was the “Israel” he had become ? The answer seems to be centered on the words “being few in number.” Yaacov clearly felt that the sheer number of people within his newly created nation would impact whether he was to act as a Yaacov or as an “Israel”. A clear understanding of this point will also afford the people of Israel in our time a clear message.

The Zohar explains regarding our question that Yaacov was concerned that without the number of 600,000 ,the newly forming people of Israel were in danger. The Jewish people were to experience their first redemption as a people after they numbered over 600,000. ” These are they that were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers’ houses; all that were numbered of the camps according to their hosts were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty. ( Numbers2:32) . Yaacov, then, intuitively and spiritually understood that the time of redemption had not yet arrived. He was not yet fully “Israel”.

This awareness carries great implications for the people of Israel in the land of Israel in our day.
Rabbi Menachem Kasher, in his introduction to Kol HaTor in HaTekufah HaGedolah, mentions two statistical records in this regard:

“The year 5708 (1948) was the first year in centuries that there were 600,000 Jews living in Eretz Yisrael . it was in that year that the State of Israel was born and the final redemption was begun. The Zohar continues to explain that when there will be 600,000 males of army age as there was during the Exodus from Egypt, then HaShem’s Glory will return to Jerusalem. In the year of 5727 (1967) the census showed that there were over 600,000 Jewish males of army age living in Eretz Yisrael. In 1967 the city of Jerusalem was reunited and HaShem’s Kavod ( Glory) returned to the city.The process of redemption was pushed into the same level

If one is sensitive to those numbers, one understands that the time of living as a Yaacov in exile has ended and it is time to stand upright like an”Israel “is meant to. Yet those that are sensitive to this cannot assume that leadership will be given to them simply because their cause is right. If great effort is not made to win the hearts and minds of the Israeli people, then this vision will continue to be maligned and ignored. If we ignore our obligation to “seed” more “torah seed communities” throughout Israel and support the jewish outreach movements spread throughout the land , we may lose our right to be part of the miracle that is unfolding before us.

Haftara Podcast For Parshat vayishlach

What is the meaning of the names Jacob and Israel and why does Jacob remain Jacob even though he received his new name. What does it tell us about our present situation?

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