This week's parshah tells us that Jacob was given a new name - Israel. This isn't the first time new names are given in the Torah. Remember when G‑d changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah?

There is a difference here. When G‑d changed Abram's name, He said, "And your name will not be called Abram any more." Indeed, from then on the Torah always calls our first forefather Abraham. In the Talmud, our sages tell us that this is a clear lesson that no one should call him Abram again.

When Jacob's name was changed, the Torah also says, "And your name will not be called Jacob." Yet we see that the Torah itself continues to call him Jacob. Sometimes he is called Jacob, and sometimes Israel. And in the Talmud our sages also use both names - Jacob and Israel.


Names in general, and especially the names of our forefathers, are not only given so that people know what to call each other. The names of our forefathers teach us about their service of G‑d and guide us so we can follow in their footsteps. We can learn lessons from both names, Jacob and Israel.

The root of the name Jacob can also point to trickery. Sometimes, in order to overcome our not-so-good desires, we have to trick them. If a person wants to trick someone else, he doesn't tell him clearly what he is planning to do. He pretends to go along with the other person but he ends up doing just what he wants.

Sometimes not-so-good thoughts come and tell us, "You know, instead of studying tonight for the exam or going to Hebrew school, why don't you have a good time and play? You need some rest, or maybe you just need a good snack." At times, it appears that we are going along with that voice, but really we are not - he is being fooled to think that way. For in truth, we eat, sleep and take off leisure time so we can be better people and have strength to help others. So we can learn better at Hebrew school. In truth, our goal is to be better people.

The name Israel points to a different lesson. It is connected to the Hebrew word that translates "to be in charge." There are times when we must show that not-so-good voice that we don't have to trick him to overcome him. We show him that we are in charge, and we don't pay any attention to what he says. We do what we have to do, doing what is right to make this world a better place, with the pride and strength of a person in charge.