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    Jacob lived – Vayyechi

    Jacob & the angel, by Gustave Doré, 1855

    Jacob wrestles with the angel, by Gustave Doré, 1855

    The patriarch had two names – Jacob and Israel. After his all-night wrestle with the unnamed assailant, the name Jacob was replaced by Israel.

    Yet with this week’s portion we find “Jacob” back again: Vay’chi Ya’akov, “And Jacob lived”. Why does the text come back to the old name?

    We find a clue in the nature of the names. “Jacob” derives from his relationship with Esau; “Israel” is because of his relationship with God.

    The years were not kind to the patriarch. Every stage of his life brought its problems. Sometimes it was with people, sometimes with God.

    The patriarch who came to end his days in Egypt was moved more by earthly considerations (Jacob) than with heavenly matters (Israel). Only in Egypt would the family fortunes and dynamic be restored, but that was not destined to last.

    Peaceful re-settlement in Egypt with his family around him soon gave way (see next week’s sidra) to enslavement. That hard time needed God’s intervention in order to save the extended family from bondage and to enable them to start a new life of freedom.

    With God back in the story, Jacob’s family became the Children of Israel.

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