Thursday, January 04, 2007

Vayechi 3 - Yaakov and Yisroel

What is the pattern underlying the Torah's choice of which name of Yaakov to use in the sections after he is given the additional name Yisroel? On the surface, Yaakov represents weakness (the bottom of the foot) and crookedness, while Yisroel represents strength (s'rarah) and straightness (yashar), but how does this manifest in the individual pesukim?

T-0 is 32:29, in which the angel whom Yaakov fights with says,
"לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ--כִּי, אִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל: כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹהִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים, וַתּוּכָל."
"Your name shall no longer be Yaakov, but rather Yisroel, for you have striven with God and with man, and prevailed". Through the rest of the passage of Yaakov's encounter with the angel, he is still called Yaakov, with the exception of the final, seemingly parenthetical note about the children of Yisroel not eating from the slipped sinew from this point on, although when providing a reason, the verse refers back to the thigh of "Yaakov".

Throughout Yaakov's encounter with Eisav (33:1-17), the name Yaakov is used.

The name "Yaakov" is also used when he settles in Shechem (33:18-ch.34), with the exception of that when he builds an altar, he invokes the God of Yisroel.

In the first half of ch. 35, until the arrival in Beth-El, he is called Yaakov. In verse 9-10, God reinforces the name change, saying,
" שִׁמְךָ יַעֲקֹב: לֹא-יִקָּרֵא שִׁמְךָ עוֹד יַעֲקֹב, כִּי אִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל יִהְיֶה שְׁמֶךָ, וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, יִשְׂרָאֵל."
"Your name, Yaakov: your name shall no longer be called Yaakov, but rather Yisroel shall be your name." God does not reiterate the reason given by the angel. An additional difference is that the angel used the word "yei'ameir", say, while God used the word "yikarei", call.

During the rest of the encounter, until Rachel's death, he is still called Yaakov. Immediately, following (35:21-22), the name Yisroel is used three times, but at the parsha-break immediately following Reuven's sin, it reverts to Yaakov, and this name is used until the end of the section.

Yaakov is mentioned one time in the section of Eisav's genealogy, as is the name Yisroel, but the latter refers to the first king of Israel, which is some time in the future (the mefarshim argue if it refers to Moshe or to Sha'ul).

P' Vayeishev starts out referring to Yaakov, but then says that Yisroel loved Yosef. Yisroel is the one who sends Yosef to his brothers, but the bereaved father who tears his garments is Yaakov.

He leaves the story immediately following, and does not come back until Yosef becomes viceroy over Egypt, when Yaakov tells his sons to go to Egypt to buy food, but it is the sons of Yisroel who come to Egypt. They return to their father, Yaakov, missing one son and requesting that he risk a second, and all are terrified by the appearance of their money in their sacks. When Yehudah steps forward to take responsibility, though, Yisroel accepts, and advises his sons how best to find favor in the eyes of the viceroy.

When Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, it is the sons of Yisroel who return to Canaan with the good news. They tell Yaakov their father than his beloved son is still alive, and his spirit is revived, at which point he transforms back into Yisroel and resolves to see his son. Yisroel offers sacrifices to God in Be'er Sheva before leaving the land, but when God appears to Yisroel in a vision at night, he calls him Yaakov, twice.

Yaakov leaves Be'er Sheva, and Yisroel's sons take their father Yaakov to Egypt.

The geneaological interlude refers in the beginning to the sons of Yisroel, but every other mention is by the name Yaakov, including the reference to Yaakov's sons' wives at the end of the section.

Yosef and Yisroel reunite, but it is the aged, frail Yaakov who appears before the king of Egypt.

Yisroel dwells in Egypt and multiplies in it, but the name used here seems to be a reference to the family as a whole.

Yaakov lives for 17 years in Egypt, before Yisroel's life comes to a close. When he takes to his sick bed, Yaakov tells his son to bring his grandchildren before him. When Yisroel sees Yosef's sons, Yosef introduces them, and Yisroel blesses them.

Yaakov calls all of his sons to him for a final speech. In his introductory statement, he tells Yaakov's sons to listen to Yisroel, their father. He condemns Shim'on and Levi to be divided amongst Yaakov and scattered amongst Yisroel. In telling over Yosef's story, he invokes the Mighty One of Yaakov and the Stone of Yisroel. At the end, the verse calls them the tribes of Yisroel, and Yaakov dies.

The physicians embalm Yisroel, but strangely, he is not mentioned by either name until the end of his burial narrative.

Finally, when Yosef reassures his brothers that God will remember them, he invokes the oath that God made to Yaakov.

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