Forethoughts and Afterthoughts.
Commentary on the weekly Torah reading.
In memory of Father, Yosef Ben Zelig.
March 25th 1911 - May 2nd 2008
In memory of Mother, Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh.
June 9th 1925 - April 16th 2003
In memory of Uncle, Moshe Binyamin Ben Tzvi Hirsh.
December 12 1929 - February 2nd 2010
In Loving Memory of Moreinu Horav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh HaYeshiva Ner Yisroel
Chukas (Numbers 19-22)
Vayishlach (Genesis 32-36)
35:10 And G-D said to him, "Your name is Yaakov (Jacob). Your name will no longer be called Yaakov. Rather, your name will become Yisroel (Israel). And He called his name Yisroel."
The name change does not appear to be universal because the Torah refers to him as Yaakov in verse 15. The Torah sometimes calls him Yaakov and other times he is called Yisroel.
Avraham's (Abraham's) name was changed from Avram in 17:5: "And your name will no longer be called Avram. Your name will be Avraham for I have made you as a father of a multitude of nations" (17:5).
From that point on, the Torah never refers to Avraham as Avram. In fact, the Talmud derives from 17:5 that it is forbidden to refer to him as Avram (Brachos13a).
Why was Yaakov's name change different? Why does the Torah sometimes refer to him as Yaakov and other times it uses Yisroel?
The Nesivas Shalom commentary offers the following explanation.
Each of our founding fathers had a unique approach to serving G-D.
Avraham's focus was doing acts of kindness. This corresponds to worship out of love and personal desire.
Yitzchak's focus was discipline and respect. This corresponds to worship out of awe and reverence.
Yaakov's focus was to achieve and balance both approaches.
The recommended path for most types of personal growth is to master a basic level of competence and to then add enhancements.
Self-discipline and worship out of a perceived need to comply is our basic level for spiritual growth, a starting point.
Serving G-D out of love and a desire to do so is a higher level of quality. But it is also difficult maintain.
A person whose relationship with the Torah relies solely on love and desire may not be able to maintain the same level of meeting Torah obligations when his feelings cool down. Furthermore, he is at risk because a lapse in observance may discourage him. However, with the basic level of compliance as a backup he will continue on and eventually pick up where he left off.
Yaakov started by focusing on the basic level that his father mastered. He worked upwards from there.
His new name Yisroel represented two things. One was mastery in being able to worship with love and desire. The other was a mastery to balance the two.
Therefore, the name change was not permanent because he used both approaches to keep on growing.
The lesson for us is to aim high and have a back-up plan. The expectations that we impose on ourselves must be realistic, with the realization that our feelings and performance can vary. We must function in a way to maintain growth without incurring excessive risk.
It's hard for a person to figure out the right balance and it's best to work this out with a G-D fearing and competent mentor.
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