These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on December 8, 2011 by Barer

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This week’s parsha has so much going on that it is hard to figure out one thing to talk about.  I want to focus on something that occurs simply on the level of the text itself, without considering any commentators.  Over the course of Bereishit so far, a number of people have had their names changed, with Hashem being involved to a certain extent a number of times.  It is clear from the text that such name changes hold a great deal of weight, both for Hashem and the people affected.  However, it seems like the major name change of our parsha – and arguably one of the most important name changes in the Torah – is not given the weight it deserves by the person in question.  After struggling with ‘the man’ (traditionally understood to be an angel) during the night, Yaakov’s name is changed to Yisrael (32:29).  However, while one would expect that from that point forward the text would refer to the man formerly called Yaakov as Yisrael, this does not happen.  Clearly the text is not completely comfortable with this either, as a few chapters later Hashem commands that Yaakov name be changed (35:10).  However, even after this clearly divine command the text refers to Yaakov as Yaakov a couple more times (35:15 and 20) before finally changing over to Yisrael.  Given that both of his grandparents had their names significantly changed, I find it surprising, to say the least, that Yaakov is so blasé about his own name change.

To take a new name
Given by God; but spurned
Is he wrestling?