When parents have the privilege to name a child there is much contemplation and consideration prior to the decision. The name of a person captures one’s essence and depth and therefore requires wisdom and deliberation. The Midrash explains that even the Angels were unable to name the animals and man. Adam Harishon, with insight and intelligence, was able to name the animals, himself and even Hashem. Naming is a talent gifted to man together with the help of divine influence from above. Many times when asking Tzaddikim for advice concerning my own children, I was told to make sure to call my children by their complete name. The name of a person captures one’s strengths and character traits and by hearing it reminds a person of one’s abilities.
With these thoughts on the beauty and depth of a Jewish name, we will analyze the naming of our third Patriarch at the beginning of our Parsha. The Torah explains that Yaakov is given his name because he was born holding onto the eikev, heel, of his brother Eisav. This momentary occurrence seems like a superficial reason behind a name for life. What is the essence of Yaakov that was being captured by this name? According to one opinion in Rashi 3 this name was decided by Hashem himself. This knowledge requires even deeper explanation as a divinely determined name must have hidden meaning on a very deep level. Another important question arises as to why there is a letter yud added before the word eikev? Shouldn’t Yaakov have just been called eikev? Although now that may sound strange, it is only because we are not accustomed to that name. The name of Eisav also seems to be altered. Rashi 4 explains that the name Eisav represents the fact that he emerged as a finished product. This is clear from the pasuk as his body was full of hair. The Shem Mishmuel explains that this was the essence of the negative character of Eisav. He always considered himself a finished product, not needing to work on himself or grow. This was the foundation that led him to his ways of wickedness. Just as Yaakov seems to have an added yud, Eisav is missing one from his end. The word for an object being finished would be Assui including a yud at the end. Where did this yud disappear to?
The Megaleh Amukos explains that Yaakov snatched this yud from the end of Eisav and placed it at his head. This is symbolized by the act of Yaakov grabbing onto the final heel of Eisav. He was seizing the last yud for himself. This yud that clearly represents the kedusha of Hashem, as
it is found at the beginning of the name of Hashem, at first is found at the end of Eisav. A relationship with Hashem was the last thing on Eisav’s mind. Yaakov however wanted this to be his first priority.
Still why did Yaakov need to take this yud from Eisav, and what is the significance of adding it to the word Eikev?
When thinking about a yud being added to the beginning of a name, the immediate connection is made to Yehoshua. Yehoshua at first is named Hoshea and only in preparation to becoming one of the meraglim does Moshe add a yud to his name to help protect him. Rashi explains that by adding a yud, Moshe was connecting this yud to the hey that already was there to form the name of Hashem at the beginning of Yehoshua’s name.
What is the significance of this name that it would offer protection to Yehoshua?
The story of the meraglim has been debated for generations
to understand how it could have occurred. After all, the meraglim were considered great leaders of Bnei Yisrael. How could it be possible that they would not want to enter into the holiest of lands to connect to Hashem? The Belzer Rebbi ztz’’l explains that the meraglim understood that once Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael the miraculous existence of the desert life would end. No longer would the mann fall or their clothing grow with them. There would be a need to support oneself and be involved in a world of materialism that can easily pull one away from ruchnius and Torah study. The meraglim wanted no place in this new world and therefore suggested to stay in the desert.
The meraglim did not appreciate the kedusha found when materialism is elevated to a level of spirituality. They didn’t understand that an eved Hashem is one who is able to connect to Hashem in all that they do and still find as much time as possible to learn the holy Torah. This is surely the world we all live in and this is our tafkid. To see Hashem in everything and
connect to ruchnius every moment of life should be our goal. There is no need to abstain from all that is physical in order to achieve that level.
The Gemara in Menachos explains that the world of Olam Habba, the world of only ruchnius, was created with the letter yud, and our world, the world of the physical, was created with the letter hey. Moshe added the letter yud to the letter hey of Yehoshua in order to illustrate to Yehoshua that unlike his fellow meraglim, he should not be afraid of entering into a
physical world. One needs to attach the yud of ruchnius to the hey of the mundane and elevate everything in order to build a bond with Hashem.
This insight can explain why the name of Hashem found when combining ish, man, and isha, woman, in marriage is the name Yud Hey. The man brings the yud in his name of ish and places it next to the hey of the isha. This is symbolic of the couple who will Bezras Hashem lift up all of the physical world which occupies much of their focus to a level of spirituality. They will combine the yud of the spiritual to the hey of the
This was the message given to Yaakov as well, by attaching the same yud to the eikev. The eikev is the lowest part of the body, representing full physicality. Yaakov would be the first Jew to spend time in exile. Yaakov would succeed, as the essence that we see in his name was that he understood the importance of elevating all that is mundane in this world.
The Beis Halevi explains that this was the understanding that Rivkah had when telling Yaakov to steal the brachos from Eisav. Yitzchak thought that these brachos full of blessings in the physical should be accepted by Eisav so that Yaakov can be free to be fully involved in Torah. This was similar to the calculation of the meraglim. Rivkah understood that a true Eved Hashem can have it all and be successful. We need to elevate every area of our life to Avodas Hashem.
Yaakov took the brachos from Eisav as he originally took his yud from the end of his name!! Yaakov was able to epitomize the lesson behind the ladder he will see in next week’s parsha that was standing on the ground, but reaching up to the heavens. Yaakov is the father of the entire Jewish nation
as we are called Bnei Yisrael. We must learn from Yaakov how to raise every element of our lives to a level of holiness. There is nothing in this world that one does that is unable somehow to bring one closer to Hashem. We must realize that we can be successful and not retreat from this task.
This excerpt was taken from From The Heart of a Lion by Rabbi Aryeh Cohen.