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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayechi

Parashat Vayechi

Two names

Dedicated to the memory of
Asher Ben Haim
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In this week's parasha, Yaakov Avinu is referred to by two different names: Yaakov and Yisrael. The commentaries have much to say about these two names. Almost all agree that the name Yaakov relates to the time spent in Galut and the Galut mentality.

Yisrael, on the other hand, refers to Yaakov's struggle to free himself and return to land of his fathers. While he was in the house of Lavan, Yaakov accumulated wealth, and just then, he had a dream, a vision in which an angel of God said: "Get up, leave this land and return to the land of your birth."

Yaakov accepted the challenge and wrestled to free himself from the enslaving forces of material gain. It was then that an angel named him Yisrael, indicating his victory over the quest for the mundane.

We, in Israel, have a major problem with our enemies, but please God, we shall overcome. Our brethren in the Diaspora face a different problem, a very serious problem of intermarriage and assimilation. Too many Jews in the Diaspora are headed for the desolate zone of historic non-existence.

How do we confront this serious problem? Do we react or do we respond? There is an enormous difference between these two behaviors. A reaction is very superficial; it involves surrender to fate. A response is dynamic; a response is facing up to the challenge of destiny.

Bound together by centuries of anguished history, we must respond as Yaakov Avinu did; we must wrestle with our problems and ultimately achieve the glories of our destiny.

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