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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

VaYeshev 9-3

And (he) settled

Genesis 37:23-36

Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.

Gen. 37:34 ESV

Why wasn't Yaakov's name changed for good?

When the angel blessed Yaakov in Peniel he said that his name would no longer be Yaakov but “Israel” (32:28). The same was said in Bethel (35:10). When Avram receives his new name, Avraham, the Torah never uses the previous one again. But Yaakov's case is different. The Torah calls him both Yaakov and Israel until his death. Why did the Eternal still call him Yaakov if He had told him that his name wouldn't be Yaakov anymore?

This text can shed some light upon this matter. The moment in which he is mentioned before that, the Torah calls him Israel (37:13). Then, everything was fine, but when he receives the bad news about Yosef's alleged death, the Torah calls him “Yaakov” again.  

It is possible that this phenomenon has to do with his spiritual situation. When his soul was in order and his spirit high, the Torah calls him “Israel”, but when he cannot keep his spirit high, the Torah calls him “Yaakov”.

In Genesis 45:27-28 we can see a clear example of this reality: “But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, "It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (ESV)

When Yaakov's spirit revived, the spirit of prophecy, the Ruach HaKodesh, operated in him again. In that moment, the Torah calls him “Israel” again.

The patriarch's life was a constant struggle, but he made a great effort to keep his spirits up. Many times circumstances took control of his soul and he wasn't able to keep the spiritual elevation that he should have. In spite of having wonderful and powerful divine promises for himself and his offspring's life, daily struggle and negative emotions created by adverse situations, prevented him from walking in the spirit all the time. That¹s why the Torah doesn't use his new name always but also his old one.

To put it simply, “Yaakov” is his natural name and “Israel” is his spiritual name.

The wonderful fact here is that the Eternal calls Himself the God of Avraham, God of Yitzchak and God of Yaakov (Ex. 3:15). This teaches us that even if this is his natural name, the Eternal is his God indeed. In spite of our father Yaakov not being able to walk in the spirit at all times during his life, the Eternal was his God, and He fulfilled the purpose of his life. And if He could do it for Yaakov, He can do it for us.

Be encouraged, even if you can't always walk in the spirit, the Eternal is your God. Trust Him and keep seeking spiritual heights even if you encounter days and time of adversity and you can't perceive the spiritual realities for which you are yearning. Yaakov finished in good standing with the Eternal's help, and you will too be ezrat HaShem – with HaShem's help. ¡Amen ve-amen!

Jazak u-varuch – be strong and blessed,


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