WHAT’S IN A NAME?

January 15th, 2020

The Book of Shemot begins by telling us “these are the names of Israel’s sons who came to Egypt with Jacob, each coming with his household”. The question this verse prompts is simple — is his name Jacob or Israel?

Abraham’s name changed from Abram to Abraham, after which he was Abram no more. Sarah’s name changed from Sarai to Sarah, after which she was Sarai no more. But Jacob’s name changed to Israel, and yet it appears he nonetheless remained Jacob.

Why? If he was renamed, why did he retain his original name? 

Rabbi Dunner delves into various Hasidic interpretations of this curious topic, citing Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain of Sochatchov, and Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovsky of Slonim, to offer a range of ideas to explain the relevance and efficacy of both Jacob and Israel.

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