Yaakov Earning His Name Israel

By Joseph Koval

In a chidush shared by Rabbi Eli J. Mansour in one of his shiurim (available on YouTube) he pointed out that the name Yisrael, one that Yaakov had to literally fight to earn, contains all of the names of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of Judaism:

Yud: Yitzhok and Yaakov/Yisrael
Sin:   Sarai/Sarah
Resh: Rivka and Rachel
Alef: Avram/Avraham
Lamed: Leah

Which begs the question as to whether or not the depths of this Torah insight can be plunged further. In other words, can a chidush produce another chidush?

As we know, by virtue of its divine origins, there is nothing auxiliary, coincidental, or superfluous in the Torah. Therefore, it stands that there must be something more to the name Yisrael, and why it was given to Yaakov, the final father of the Jewish people.

After all, it is through the seed of Yaakov Avinu that the heritage of the Jewish people was solidified which is obvious given their status as Israelites, even though Yosef the righteous one was the savior of Mitzraim (or “Egypt”) during the famine.

Of course being the recipient of the blessing of the first-born, it goes without saying that Yosef was indeed a most special Jew, but that is another discussion. Yet, it was from their heritage descending from Yaakov, or Yisrael, that the Hebrews became known as Israelites in the years of their slavery in Egypt.

Which is to say, perhaps there is another significance to the name Yisrael from which the Israelites inherited their pedigree: that the birth of the Jewish people began with Yaakov Avinu who fathered the sons who would later become the princes of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

While there would be numerous and glorious future milestones: such as their redemption from slavery, the receiving of the Torah, and the birth of the Jewish nation at the foot of Mount Sinai: it can be said that the culmination of Am Yisrael began when Yaakov persevered and was blessed and named Yisrael.

As such, the condition of the Jewish people today – whereby a majority are living in Eretz Yisrael – was only possible due to the efforts of Yaakov Avinu. This is to not strip the patriarchs and matriarchs of their zichut, but rather, to honor them by acknowledging that the Jewish people continue to survive, and thrive, through the combined merits and blessings of all of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Judaism.

Am Yisrael Chai!

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