Isn’t it interesting that we are called the Children of Israel? Was not Israel the child of Isaac? Was not Isaac the Child of Abraham. Since Abraham led the way for us and was designated by God as the father of many nations, why are we not the Children of Abraham?
Many of our sages have asked this question without clear answer and there are many fine theories. Certainly Jacob is not less flawed than his father or grandfather and perhaps that is the point. Of all the Patriarchs, it seems that Jacob is the person who we could have the best chance of trying to emulate. Think of that.
Jacob struggles through family dysfunction, but reconciles after many years (Gen. 33:1-20). Jacob has horrible in-law problems, but overcomes them (Gen 31:43 – 32:1). Jacob works very hard throughout his life, deals with all manners of problems on the home front and with neighbors. Jacob sometimes makes mistakes. So do we. Jacob struggles with the obstacles and hardships that life may impose. So do we. Jacob evolves and grows as a person throughout his lifetime. So must we.
There is a vignette in this week’s Parasha, an exchange of words, that is actually lost in translation in many chumashim, but one that gives me the most telling reason why I feel that we the name Children of Israel makes the most sense.
When Jacob and Esau ultimately meet again, each describes what they have and, perhaps, how each has been blessed.
Esau says, “Yaish li rav.” Literally, “I have a lot.” Nevertheless, he accepts Jacob’s extremely substantial peace offering. Gen. 33:9. Jacob says, “Yaish li chol.” Literally, “I have everything.” Jacob takes nothing. The difference is striking.
Esau is saying that no matter how much he has, he craves more. Jacob recognizes that he is blessed and has what he needs.
It is Jacob who we seek to emulate. As the Children of Israel it is important that we be those who recognize, appreciate and are satisfied with what we have.
Nobody said that would be easy. We live in a society that desires and craves more. That is why we learn in Pirkei Avot 4:1 that the wealthy person is the one who is happy with their portion.
We are the Children of Israel because we struggle with the divine, but have the power to prevail. We are called Yehudim, those whose nature it is, or should be, to be thankful and appreciative to God.
May each of us each be appreciative of our blessings and in that way be wealthy.
This Shabbat we learn with Rabbi Aaron Bergman on the subject, “What is in a name? Are we the Children of Israel or the Children of Jacob?” That is what got me thinking…
See you at 9:45 a.m. for our Torah Study. Ourr Shabbat Torah Study is a great way to be prepared for our daily struggles. The Torah Study is completely informal, casual and friendly. Come as you are. Stay for the sermon and the rest of services if you like…or not. No judging. Just incredible learning.