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Dvar for Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27)

After Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, the brothers travel back to Yaakov to relay the good news. After momentary disbelief, Yaakov’s spirits are lifted (45:27), and the next pasuk relates that Yisrael immediately informs everyone that he will go see Yosef before he dies (45:28). Why does the Torah call him Yaakov in one pasuk and Yisrael in the next? Furthermore, in pesukim 46:2, 46:5, and 46:8, the names Yisrael and Yaakov are both used. Which is it, and why the variance?

Rabbi Shimon Klein suggests that the name Yaakov reflects a human perspective dealing with natural and grounded interactions, while Yisrael expresses a higher destiny, meaning, and perspective, a name declared by G-d Himself. Once Yaakov comes to realize that Yosef is alive, he understands that a higher purpose has now been set in motion and that a nation is being formed—“B’nei Yisrael.” G-d then addresses Yaakov’s mortal fears of leaving a land he was told not to leave, reassuring him that a great nation will emerge (46:3). The newly minted nation then carries Yaakov to Egypt for the next stage of their journey (46:5).

The whole is always bigger than its parts, and a group always functions better than its individuals. Our Parsha takes it a step further: A higher purpose not only transforms us when we’re together, but it also transforms us as individuals. G-d told Yaakov that he, as Yaakov, should not be afraid of the challenges that lie ahead (46:3). We, too, should not be afraid of life’s challenges, for a higher purpose unites us as a people, all the while empowering us as individuals.