A Nation is Born
At the end of the previous portion Jacob received a new name from the angel with whom he wrestled:
וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ–כִּי, אִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל: כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹהִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים, וַתּוּכָל
And he said: ‘Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:29)
This name Israel became eventually the name of a whole nation.
In fact, from this name ישראל, as an acronym, it is possible to derive the roots of our nation – names of the three Patriarchs and four of the Matriarchs.
In this week’s Torah portion VaYishlah we are told about the meeting between Jacob and his brother Esau.
Following that meeting Jacob moves to Shechem, as described below:
וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב שָׁלֵם עִיר שְׁכֶם, אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, בְּבֹאוֹ, מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם; וַיִּחַן, אֶת-פְּנֵי הָעִיר
And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and encamped before the city.
Note the Hebrew word שלם – SHALEM in the above verse.
The word “Shalem”, used in this verse has several meanings in Hebrew:
Whole, entire, complete, unharmed, full, safe, unabridged
There are several explanations regarding the word/expression
“SHALEM – in peace” in this context.
One of the commentaries of this word is:
1. Unharmed with his body – after the fight with the angel
2. Full with money, even after giving many presents to his brother Esau
3. Unabridged with his studies, Jacob did not forget his learning after 20 years of being with Laban.
Another commentary points out that:
SHaLeM – can be interpreted as an acronym
שם לשון מלבוש
SH – Shem (name)
L – Lashon (tongue, language)
M – Malbush (clothing)
Even after staying in an idol worshipping environment for 20 years, Jacob still kept three special things related to his family.
1. Name – Jacob kept special Hebrew names for his children
2. Language – Jacob kept using the Holy language (Hebrew)
3. Clothing – Jacob and his family wore modest clothes, different from those used in the land of Laban.
(Our sages stated that due to the fact that People of Israel kept these three things in Egypt, they were eventually redeemed.)
One can notice that at the end of the previous Torah portion “Vayetzeh” when Jacob and Laban part, they make a covenant over a heap of stones.
Laban called it in Aramaic יְגַר שָׂהֲדוּתָא
But Jacob insisted to call it in Hebrew גַּלְעֵד – ‘Gal’Ed’
The meaning of those is the same “Witnessing heap”.
However, insisting on calling this heap of stones in Hebrew, Jacob wanted to stress that his intention was to preserve the original Hebrew language as the national language of the people of Israel to be formed in generations to come…
Hebrew as our national language is the glue – the uniting factor for the people of Israel around the world.
And how is your Hebrew?
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Yoel & Orly
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Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,
Yoel & Orly
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