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Meaning of the name "Yaakov"

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Rabbi Berel Wein

2 Kislev 5763
Question
I always thought the literal translation of Jacob or Ya’akov was “follower,” but one of my students tells me that the New King James Bible translates Jacob to literally mean “deceiver,” I assume based on the birthright story with Esau. Thoughts?
Answer
The Hebrew word "akev" has a number of meanings. When Eisav used it regarding Yakov receiving the blessings from Yitzchak instead of him, he used the word in the pejorative sense ofbeing a deceiver, conveniently forgettig that he had sold the birthright to Yaakov long ago. When the Torah uses the word regarding the name of Yaakov, the meaning there is "holder of the heel, i.e. a follower." The word akev can also mean since or because. Hebrew is a sparse language when it comes to words and vocabulary and thus one word may have many disparate meanings. Best wishes. Rabbi Berel Wein
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