Friday, November 26, 2010

ISRAEL: What's in a name?

In Perashat VAYISHLACH we read that Yaakob fought with an angel and the angel blessed him, and changed his name from Yaakob to Israel. ‘Israel’ became the alternative name of Yaakob but also the name of the Jewish nation. But is it fair? That we the Jewish people are named ‘exclusively’ after Yaakob? Why aren’t we called the people of Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people? How about Itzchack? The middle generation is always the most challenging! Wait a minute: the Jewish status of a person goes after the mother. Whatever religion the mother is, that is also the child’s. So why aren’t we called the people of Sarah or Ribkah or Rachel or Lea? Why are we named AM ISRAEL exclusively after Yaakob?
NOW, take a closer look at the spelling of the word ISRAEL (in Hebrew!) and you will find the names of our three patriarchs and our four matriarchs: ‘Yod’ for Itzchack and Yaakob, ‘Shin’ for Sarah. ‘Resh’ for Ribkah and Rachel. ‘Alef’ for Abraham and ‘Lamed’ for Lea. They are all there! Israel is indeed the perfect name for us.