On the eve of reuniting with his brother Esau, Jacob finds himself wrestling with a man. The sages explain that this man is an angel, perhaps the guardian angel of Esau, the twin with whom Jacob has contended since the womb. This was no ordinary fight. Jacob’s life and the existence of the children of Israel were at stake. After enduring a nightlong contest, Jacob triumphs and demands a blessing from his adversary. The mysterious man blessed him saying: “…your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”
Judaism has an established tradition and understanding that names represent our identity. According to Rabbi Benjamin Bleach, our names define us and capture our essence. He explains that the Hebrew word for soul is neshamahנשמה . Central to that word, the middle two letters, shin ש and mem מ, make the word shem שם , Hebrew for ‘name.’ His conclusion is that our names hold the key to our soul. It is in the spiritual DNA of the
descendants of Israel, to wrestle with God and by extension Torah, people, and life in general. What can we learn from Jacob’s encounter and apply to the personal struggles in our lives?
1. Struggles are designed to take you outside your comfort zone
Jacob was not the physical type yet, he had to wrestled the man throughout the night.
2. Draw strength from your purpose
Jacob fought with zeal for his life, that of his family and his descendants. He had to return to the promised land, it was his mission.
3. Struggles will leave an imprint on you
The man kicked Jacob in his hip which forever altered his stride. This scarring is a physical reminder of his struggle and transformation.
4. Find the blessing in your struggle
Jacob became Israel because he demanded something of his struggle. He transformed from the deceitful, manipulative protagonist that usurped Esau’s birthright and fatherly blessing, to a father of nations.
Life can serve up the most testing situations, bringing us face-to-face with our innate beliefs and fears. We must look to our forefather and draw on his experience because on the other side of the struggle lies our blessing.
Source: Judaism and the power of names, Rabbi Benjamin Bleach, aish.com (https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Judaism–the-Power-of-Names.html