In this week’s parsha, Vayishlach, Yaakov fought with an angel. From the same angel that he fought with, Yaakov insisted that he’d be given a blessing. The angel’s blessing was that Yaakov should no longer be called Yaakov but rather Yisrael. The pesukim answer the question that most are thinking: Why this name? It is because Yaakov struggled and contended with God and men yet he prevailed. To take this further, Yaakov was a man who went through struggles, lived in fear, and was always on the run. He ran away from his parents’ house and from Lavan. The name Yisrael being given to Yaakov now symbolizes a new stage and a new person. Yaakov no longer runs away but he faces his challenges, which is why he becomes Yisrael. Yaakov is a man always on the run but Yisrael is free.
We all have times where we are like Yaakov and run away from people, places and situations because, in all honesty, it is easier, but the blessing is that we become Yisrael. We must become people who trust in ourselves and God and walk toward people, places and situations even if they are difficult. Until our difficulties are resolved we will never be free. It was only once Yaakov and Esav were able to talk and make peace that Yaakov was finally able to feel safe and live with his family without feeling a target on his back, hence the new name. May we all become Yisrael, and no matter the hardship be able to overcome it and free ourselves.
By Shira Sedek