Vayishlach-What’s in a Name?
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Shalom and Bracha!
This week’s Torah portion begins with Yaakov returning to
Israel and preparing to meet his brother Esav. Before he met his
brother, he wrestled with the Angel of Esav. Upon defeating the
Angel, the Angel blessed him and gave him a new name, Yisrael.
The defeat of Esav’s angel represents the ability to control and
conquer our animal nature. Later, Hashem blessed him and
confirmed his new name.
In the other instances in the Torah where Hashem changed
someone’s name (such as Avraham and Sarah), the original name
ceased to be used. The name Yaakov, however, continues to be
used both for Yaakov the patriarch and for the Jewish people.
Since Yaakov retained his original name, we must understand the
effect of changing his name and how it relates to us.
The name Yaakov comes from the word Eikev, which means heel,
beginning with the Hebrew letter Yud. It was given because
Yaakov was born grasping Esav’s heel. The root Eikev is also
related to the Hebrew for deceit. The Yud at the beginning
represents the first letter of G-d’s name. The name as a whole
represents bringing Hashem’s presence into a place of
concealment and resistance.
The word Yisrael comes from the Hebrew word Sar, which means
ruler. The letter Yud, which represents Hashem’s presence, is
the dominant force. The renaming gave us the power to serve
Hashem with open spirituality. Nevertheless, the name Yaakov
remains, and the two names represent two distinct aspects of
Shabbat and Holidays are the level of Yisrael. During the
week we are engaged in mundane matters that we try to subjugate
to spirituality. This is the service of Yaakov. On Shabbat, even
our physical pleasures are part of the Mitzvah of Shabbat
rejoicing. Even during the week, when we pray and actively
participate in Mitzvot, it is the level of Yisrael. When we
engage in business, and make sure to follow the Torah’s
directions in our daily matters, thus bringing Hashem into our
mundane lives, this is the level of Yaakov. As we reach higher
planes, and that which was once a test becomes simple, this is
the level of Yisrael. Continuous challenges are the level of
Yaakov. The renaming both allowed us to serve Hashem with the
purity of our soul and take that inspiration into the service of
Yaakov’s concluded his meeting with Esav promising to meet him
at mount Seir. This will occur when Moshiach comes, as the
prophet tells us “Redeemers will rise upon Mount Zion to judge
the mount of Esav and the Kingship will belong to Hashem.” May
we see that day immediately!
Dedicated to the Rebbe and Rebbitzin in honor of their
anniversary this Shabbat
Shalom and Bracha!
This Thursday, December 15th, is the Yud Tet ( the nineteenth)
of Kislev. The nineteenth of Kislev marks the Yahrtzeit of the
Maggid of Mezrich and the release of the first Chabad Rebbe,
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, from Russian prison. He had been
imprisoned by enemies of the Jewish people for his constant
financial support for the Jewish community is Israel, which was
then under part of the Ottoman Empire (who were considered
enemies of Russia) and by enemies of the Chassidic movement for
his leadership and dissemination of Chassidut, the teachings of
the Baal Shem Tov. His liberation was a celebration for the
entire Jewish people and for the teachings of Chasssidut. It is
customary not to say Tachanun (Ana) Thursday and Friday.
Many interesting events occurred while the Rebbe was in prison.
On the way to prison, the guards wanted to travel on Shabbat, to
which the Rebbe was opposed. The wagon broke several times until
the guards realized their prisoner’s wishes needed to be
reckoned with and spent Shabbat by the roadside. The souls of
the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid visited him and assured him of
vindication. His 53 days in prison paralleled the 53 chapters of
the main book of his teachings, the Tanya.
very poignant story with a powerful lesson to each of us
occurred with the minister of education during the
interrogation. He asked the Rebbe to explain a verse in the
Torah: when Adam ate from the forbidden fruit, Hashem asked him
(Genesis 3:9) “where are you?” Didn’t Hashem know where he was?
After the Rebbe gave explanation of Rashi, the minister asked
what does the Rebbe himself explain? The Rebbe explained that
the words of Torah are eternal and a lesson to each of us
throughout our lives. G-d always asks us “where are you?” You
have a limited time on this earth and a mission to fulfill in
perfecting the world. He mentioned the minister’s exact age.
“Where are you” in fulfilling your mission?
fifth Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneerson, wrote in a letter
that the nineteenth of Kislev is the Rosh Hashana of Chassidut
and in serving Hashem with the depths of our souls and reaching
the inner depths of Torah and Mitzvot. The Preevious Rebbe
referred to the day as Chag Hachagim, the Festival of Festivals.
The Rebbe has given numerous blessings to those who arrange and
attend Farbrengens (Chassidic gatherings) in connection to Yud
Tet Kislev. It is a time to gather, increase in Torah study,
fulfilling of Mitzvot and charity and accepting good resolutions
for the future.
Baal Shem Tov heard from the soul of Moshiach that when the
wellsprings of Chassidut will spread forth, Moshiach will come.
May we use the day for to its utmost and merit the Geulah
Chag Hachagim Sameach! May Hashem grant you a good year in the
paths and teachings of Chassidut!
memory of Chaim Ben Velvel Furman of blessed memory. May Hashem
grant him perfect rest in Gan Eden and may his family only have
joy from today forward.
G-d willing I will
be visiting the Rebbe’s Ohel on Yud Tet Kislev. If anyone would
like a prayer said there please contact me at RabbiBiggs@gmail.com
. Please include the Hebrew name and the mother’s Hebrew name of
the people to be prayed for.
Chanukah approaches, let’s think about helping fellow Jews
observe the Mitzvot of Chanukkah. If you know someone who needs
a Menorah or candles, get them one. If you know someone who
doesn’t light, invite them to your lighting. Need help? Contact
your local Chabad.
is a great Chanukah website at
Chabad of Great Neck will be distributing toys to hospitalized
children this Chanukah season. If anyone would like to donate,
please send a check to Chabad Chanukah fund at the address below
A project of Chabad
of Great Neck
400 East Shore Rd.
Great Neck NY 11024
fax 516 4874807
The Talmud teaches
that increasing Torah study brings Hashem's protection to the
Jewish people and particularly to the people of Israel. If you
know of anyone who might enjoy Torah e mail, please send me