Yaakov and Yisrael
הרב זכריה טובי
Twice in our parsha Yaakov's name is changed to Yisrael, once by the angel of Esav and a second time by G-d himself. If we analyze the two blessing we note that there is a small discrepancy between them, but of great significance. Esav's angel who blesses Yaakov says: "No longer will it be said that your name is Yaakov, but Yisrael, for you have striven with the divine and with man and have overcome." (Bereishit 32:29) However, G-d turns to Yaakov: "G-d said to him, 'Your name is Yaakov. Your name shall not always be called Yaakov, but Yisrael should be your name.' Then he called his name Yisrael." (35:10) Before changing Yaakov's name, G-d prefaced the phrase, "Your name is Yaakov," whereas Esav's angel changed his name to Yisrael without saying, "Your name is Yaakov" – why?
The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (12b) says: "'Your name shall not always be called Yaakov, but Yisrael should be your name" – Yaakov will not uprooted from its place, but rather Yisrael will be primary and Yaakov subordinate to it." According to this we understand why Hashem prefaced, "Your name is Yaakov" – to say that the name Yaakov will remain, but not as a primary name. If so, it seems that Esav's angel was not willing that the name Yaakov should remain, but only the name Yisrael. Why should he care if the name Yaakov remains as a subordinate?
The Chatam Sofer (Drashot vol. I, p. 57) writes:
The angel of Esav is the Satan, and in order to vanquish the power of the Satan, we need these two names – Yaakov and Yisrael, since their numeric number together is kera Satan (tear the Satan) ... With the name Yisrael alone we cannot stand up to the Satan. Therefore the angel wanted to uproot the name Yaakov, whereas G-d did not want to uproot the name Yaakov, so that we would have the strength to stand up to the Satan and to vanquish it.
While the numeric value of Yaakov and Yisrael equals "kera Satan," on a deeper level, why does the name Yaakov give the strength to stand up to him?
The difference between Yaakov and Yisrael is that "Yaakov" symbolizes the inherent aspect of Am Yisrael – "For Yaakov G-d chose for Himself; Yisrael as his treasure." Those of Am Yisrael who are not wholesome in their service and violate the commandments of Hashem are also included in the Jewish people. On the verse, "He perceived no iniquity in Yaakov, and saw no perversity in Israel. Hashem his G-d is with him and the friendship of the King is in him" (Bamidbar 23:21), Rashi writes: "G-d did not perceive iniquity in Yaakov, when they violate His laws ... Hashem his G-d is with him – even if they anger Him, He does not move from their midst." Thus, Yaakov symbolizes the less spiritual people Am Yisrael. Although they violate G-d's will and anger Him, "Hashem his G-d is with him," for, "You are children to Hashem your G-d" – even when they are destructive children, as R. Meir says. (Kiddushin 36a)
On the other hand, the name Yisrael indicates those of Am Yisrael who are wholesome in their service – those who fulfill Torah and mitzvot and walk in the way of Hashem. The angel of Esav wants to erase the name Yaakov and leave only the name Yisrael – to indicate that if, Heaven forbid, they stray from the path of Hashem they are no longer considered as part of Klal Yisrael.
G-d promises, "Your name is Yaakov"– the name Yaakov will never be annulled. The inherent aspect of Am Yisrael will never be annulled, even though they sin and descend from their level: "Hashem his G-d is with him, and the friendship of the King is in him."
We need to follow in the way of Hashem and not to uproot, Heaven forbid, the name Yaakov from our midst. We need to connect the name Yaakov to the name Yisrael, and also those who stray from the way of Hashem, to draw them close with ropes of love.
קוד השיעור: 3617
Translated by Rav Meir Orlian