The secret to Jewish survival – it all lies in our name!
The Jewish people take their name from their third forefather, Yaakov, who was also known as, “Israel”. But what was wrong with Avraham or YItzchak that we had to take the third in line? After all, Avraham was the one who discovered the existence of the one G-d! Yitzchak? He was so righteous that he could never leave the land of Israel! So what was so special about Yaakov, that we are called “Am Israel” (the nation of Israel) as opposed to “Bnei Avraham” (the children of Abraham) or “Am Yitzchak” (the nation of Isaac)?
I believe it is this. None of the other forefathers experienced the same level of Divine revelation, as Yaakov did, while on the go. It was specifically in the midst of his greatest dangers and struggles that he experienced his greatest Divine visions.
While fleeing the wrath of his brother Eisav, Yaakov grows tired and takes rest on top of a mountain. It is there that he dreams of angels going up and down a heavenly ladder and awakens to an epiphany: “Surely G-d is in this place, although I wasn’t aware of it”!
Further, after working for 20 arduous years under his uncle Laban, Yaakov and his family finally take leave only to share another close encounter with death – this time, with an unnamed stranger. They battle until the morning and Yaakov prevails. Upon the crack of dawn, his adversary declares: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with G‑d and with man and have overcome”.
This was the man that Yaakov was. He was never in the comfort of his hometown or secure in his destination. He was always on the road. Travelling. Battling. Yet he always overcame his adversaries, no matter how difficult the struggle or long the journey. And it was specifically in the midst of those periods of extreme vulnerability that he encountered G-d, always finding the courage to continue despite all odds.
This, perhaps is why our nation has taken their name after Yaakov, or more correctly, Israel! You see, we would need this trait of tenacity and perseverance to overcome all of the challenges that we have faced – and continue to face – in our long and arduous history. We have always understood that If we are to survive, we have to experience revelation in the midst of struggle! We must cling on to life and never give up hope. After more than four thousand years of history, we are still on the road. Am Israel Chai!
I wish a hearty Mazal Tov to Anton Blair and his entire family who will be celebrating his Barmitzvah with us in Shule this Shabbat. I have heard a few practices and know that we are all in for a real treat!
I also welcome the graduating Year 6 Mount Sinai class and their families to our Shule this Friday night, where we will be celebrating their incredible achievements at a large, Shabbat dinner.
Weekday Minyanim (morning and evening)
As we come close to the end of the year and people go away, I fear that our daily minyanim will suffer and those who need to say Kaddish for loved ones will be denied this special opportunity. I, therefore, ask all those who can attend a minyan (even once a week) to please make yourself known to me so I can ensure that we will have a healthy minyan over the upcoming end-of-year period.
Wishing you and your families Shabbat Shalom and see you in Shule,
Rabbi Yossi Friedman