The Weekly Sedra – Parshas Vayishlach

The Rebbe says:

1. In this week’s Torah portion Hashem (G-d) tells Yakov Avinu (Jacob our Forefather) that his name would no longer be called “Yakov” (Jacob), it would now be called “Yisroel” (Israel).

2. As the preface to a question, the Rebbe now quotes the Talmud which discusses this verse:

The Talmud tells us that whoever calls our Forefather Avraham “Avram” (which was his original name), transgresses on the verse, “And your name shall no longer be called ‘Avram’; it shall henceforth be called ‘Avraham’ ”.

The Talmud then goes on to ask, “Why does this rule not also apply to Yakov Avinu? Why is it that we can still call Yakov Avinu “Yakov” even after Hashem told him, “No longer will your name be Yakov, but Yisroel will be your name”?

The Talmud answers that we can still call Yakov Avinu “Yakov” even after he was named “Yisroel” because the Torah itself calls him “Yakov” even after Hashem named him “Yisroel”.

3. The Rebbe now asks a question:

The Talmud’s whole reasoning was that since the Torah calls Yakov Avinu “Yakov” even after he was named “Yisroel”, we can also call him “Yakov”. However this itself needs to be understood: why would the Torah still call Yakov Avinu “Yakov” even after Hashem named him “Yisroel”?

4. The Rebbe now answers the question:

Chassidus explains that the two names “Yakov” and “Yisroel” represent two different kinds of service to Hashem which must both be practiced by every Jew. Sometimes we must serve Hashem with “Yakov” and sometimes we must serve Hashem with “Yisroel”.
Event though “Yisroel” represents a higher level of G-dliness, as we see clearly from the fact that that Yakov Avinu was only named “Yisroel” after many years of serving Hashem with his name “Yakov”, there are times when we must serve Hashem specifically with “Yakov” and not “Yisroel”.

Now we can understand that when the Torah still calls Yakov Avinu “Yakov” even after Hashem named him “Yisroel”, it is because there are always two ways of serving Hashem, even after we reach the level of Yisroel.

5. The Rebbe now explains the different connotations of “Yakov” and “Yisroel”:

The name “Yakov” represents cunning, treacherousness, deceit and cleverness. At this level Yakov Avinu had to act with great cunning and trickery to receive the Blessings from his father Yitzchak (Isaac).

On the other hand the name “Yisroel” represents nobility and openness. At this level Yakov Avinu was able to receive the Blessings in a noble and open fashion; as the guardian angel of Eisav (Esau) put it, “It will no longer be said that the Blessings came to you through deceit and trickery, but, rather, through nobility and openness”.

6. The Rebbe now explains what the service of “Yakov” is:

The Blessings which Yitzchak Avinu (Isaac our Forefather) gave to Yakov Avinu were for physical things- “The dew of Heaven, and the fatness of the earth…”, and it was for these physical things that Yakov Avinu and his mother Rivkah our Matriarch put their lives on the line and acted deceitfully. Moreover, in order to receive the Blessings from Yitzchak Avinu, Yakov Avinu even had to put on the clothes of Nimrod who had previously caused the entire world to rebel against Hashem.

Why were these Blessings of physicality so important to Yakov Avinu and Rivkah Imainu (Rebecca our Matriarch)? Because they wanted to take out the Holy sparks found in physical things and elevate them to Holiness.

The lesson for us in our daily lives from the level of “Yakov”:

Our Sages tell us that “Whatever happened to our Forefathers is an indication of what will happen to their children” . Therefore we must learn from Yakov Avinu’s cunning and trickery and apply it to our daily conduct:

The approach of a Jew towards eating, drinking, and other physical things, must be in a way of trickery. Just like a deceitful person goes along with the plan without first revealing his real intentions, and then only when it comes time for him to act out his original plan does he reveal what his true intentions were, we must also make it seem like we are involved with physicality for its own sake when we are really only interested in elevating the Holy sparks found within it.

7. The Rebbe now explains the level of “Yisroel”:

On the other hand, at the level of “Yisroel”, the Blessings of, “The dew of Heaven, and the fatness of the earth…”, comes to us with openness and nobility. In other words, at this level we do not have to conceal our G-dly intentions for physical things because physicality is not fighting with us and concealing G-dliness; at the level of “Yisroel” physicality is G-dliness, just like for example eating on Shabbos which is a Mitzvah (Commandment) itself. During the week we eat the food with trickery; seemingly we are just eating like any normal human being, but really we just need to have energy to serve Hashem. However on Shabbos the eating itself is a Holy thing.

The lesson for us is that sometimes we must get drawn in to physicality in order to elevate it, and sometimes we must just grow within Holiness without the “war” of elevating physicality.

Translated and adapted by Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos volume three, first Sicha.

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