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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat Va-y'chi (January 14, 2017)
by Rachel Brumberg

THIS WEEK WE ARRIVE at the final portion in the book of Genesis: Parashat Va-y’chi. This portion easily could have been named “Blessings and Deaths,” as within it we read about Jacob’s final blessings to his sons as well as about the deaths of Rachel, Jacob and Joseph. However, the thing that kept on catching my eye as I read and re-read the text was the name of Joseph’s father and Rachel’s husband: the biblical character of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel by God several parashiyot ago in Genesis 32:29. Throughout this week’s portion, the text goes back and forth between calling him Jacob and Israel. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of consistency, and sometimes the name changes within the same verse. Why?

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