Friday, November 27, 2015

Yaakov or Yisrael

In this week's parsha, Vayishlach, we read how Yaakov fights with an angel and wins. The angel tells him, that he will be also called Yisrael, "because you struggled with Hashem('s angel) and with men, and prevailed." Later in our parsha, Hashem tells Yaakov that his name will now be Yisrael. He goes on to be called by both names, sometimes Yisrael and other times Yaakov.

These are the names we are called by, Bnei Yisrael, the Children of Israel and Bais Yaakov, the House of Jacob.

What is the significance of these names? Why keep both names, if Yisrael is so special, why keep Yaakov?

As Jews we have a constant inner struggle. On one hand, there is being a part of this physical world, with all the hardships and pleasures that go with it. On the other, there is our ability to rise above it all and be one with Hashem.

Our name Yaakov, which means heel, is the part of us that deals with this world. Yaakov also means to trick, being clever, because it is our mission to transform this world into a G-dly place. Since this world is a world of lies and corruption, we must be clever not to be taken by it's allure.

Yisrael is our ability to rise above it all. Above both physical and spiritual realms, which are both creations, and connect with our essence, our Neshama, which is actually a part of Hashem, and not subject to the deceit of creation.

While Yisrael sounds nice, it doesn't effect the change we are meant to accomplish in the world. Yet it is necessary for us to go there from time to time, to rejuvenate and remind ourselves of our purpose. Yaakov is the part of us that transform this world, which can only be done by taking part in it.

On a personal level, our lives are full of pain and struggles. It is there that we accomplish our primary purpose. Our struggles have meaning, our suffering is accomplishing amazing things. It is hard to see it this way. That is when we need to connect with Hashem, rise above and rejuvenate. From time to time we need to let go and allow Hashem to take over.

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