Hebrew | Francais


> > Archive

Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach 5784

Parashat Hashavua: Not Yaakov but Yisrael

Harav Yosef Carmel

We have explained in the past that our third patriarch’s journey to Charan was characterized as a trek by foot, making the name Yaakov, from the root akev (heel) appropriate at that time. The journey of return to the Land ends in our parasha. It is highlighted by his victory over the Angel of Eisav, as a result of which he received a new name, Yisrael.

The middle letters of Yisrael form the word rosh (head). This symbolizes Yaakov’s desire to reach the head of his famous ladder. There are other, related, appropriate meanings. Head also symbolizes leadership, being the head and the first (rishon). For example, when Shimi ben Geira came to greet David when he returned from his exile during Avshalom’s rebellion, he is called the “rishon of the whole House of Yosef” (Shmuel II, 19:21).

The connection between leadership/strength and Yaakov’s new name is explicit, as the angel explains it: “… for you have acted with authority (sarita) with angels and people and have succeeded” (Bereishit 32:29; this pasuk can be translated in many ways). The root is found elsewhere in this meaning in verb form, as Avimelech is described as ruling over Israel for three years with the word “vayasar” (Shoftim 9:22).

In many ways, sin and shin are the same letter, so yashar (straight) is also a form of the same root. Shimshon, then, may have intended for a double entendre, when he asked his father to take for him a Philistine wife because she was yashar in his eyes (ibid. 14:3). He not only meant that he liked her but that she was his means of obtaining dominion over her people.

The meaning we would like to focus on is of yashar in the realm of ethics. Chazal call Sefer Bereishit, Sefer Hayashar, because the patriarchs were ethical. In one of the most uplifting sections in the Torah commentaries, the Netziv, Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin (the greatest Torah center in Europe at its time), explained the difference between a tzaddik (righteous) and the preferable yashar.

The Netziv refers to the nation at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple as having many tzaddikim and people who were dedicated to Torah and its study, yet they were a difficult generation – these people were not yashar in the way they led their lives. Because of baseless hatred, they accused those who did not share their philosophy of being heretics, causing violence and discord, which led to the destruction. Hashem “cannot stand” such tzaddikim, and yearns for yesharim, truly ethical people, like the patriarchs. Even though the tzaddikim primarily acted with good intentions, Hashem was justified in bringing the destruction of the Temple.

The Netziv continues to point out that the patriarchs acted in good faith and with cordiality even with lowly idol worshippers, seeing them as partners in building the world. Avraham prayed for the people of Sodom, even though he hated them due to their wickedness. The midrash (Devarim Rabba 3:15) says that Avraham was chosen over all of the other righteous people because he tried to defend and find the good in all sorts of people.

So, Yaakov, who started off as “an unblemished man, who sat in tents” (Bereishit 25:27) was crowned as Yisrael, both tzaddik and yashar. May we merit leadership by people who are both tzaddikim and yesharim.

Top of page
Print this page
Send to friend


We daven for a complete and speedy refuah for:

Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
Ori Leah bat Chaya Temima

Arye Yitzchak ben Geula Miriam

Neta bat Malka

Meira bat Esther
Yerachmiel ben Zlotta Rivka

Together with all cholei Yisrael

Hemdat Yamim is dedicated

to the memory of:

Those who fell in wars

for our homeland


Prof. Yisrael Aharoni z"l

Kislev 14, 5783


Rav Shlomo Merzel z”l
Iyar 10, 5771

 Reuven & Chaya Leah Aberman z"l
Tishrei 9
 ,5776 / Tishrei 20, 5782


Mr. Shmuel & Esther Shemesh z"l

Sivan 17 / Av 20


Mr. Moshe Wasserzug z"l

Tishrei 20 ,5781


R' Eliyahu Carmel z"l

Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8 ,5776


MrsSara Wengrowsky

bat R’ Moshe Zev a”h.

Tamuz 10 ,5774


Rav Asher & Susan Wasserteil z"l
Kislev 9 / Elul 5780


R' Meir ben

Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld z"l


MrsSara Brachfeld z"l

Tevet 16 ,5780


R 'Yaakov ben Abraham & Aisha


Chana bat Yaish & Simcha

Sebbag, z"l


Rav Yisrael Rozen z"l
Cheshvan 13, 5778


Rav Benzion Grossman z"l
Tamuz 23, 5777


R' Abraham & Gita Klein z"l

Iyar 18,  /5779Av 4


Rav Moshe Zvi (Milton) Polin z"l
Tammuz 19, 5778


R' Yitzchak Zev Tarshansky z"l

Adar 28, 5781


Nina Moinester z"l

Nechama Osna bat

Yitzhak Aharon & Doba

Av 30, 5781


Rabbi Dr. Jerry Hochbaum z"l

Adar II 17, 5782


Mrs. Julia Koschitzky z"l

Adar II 18, 5782


Mrs. Leah Meyer z"l

Nisan 27, 5782


Mr. Shmuel & Rivka Brandman z"l

Tevet 16 5783/ Iyar 8, 5781


R' Yona Avraham ben Shmuel Storfer z”l

19 Kislev


Hemdat Yamim
is endowed by
Les z"l  & Ethel Sutker
of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
Louis and Lillian Klein z”l

site by entry.
Eretz Hemdah - Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy. | Terms of Use.