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The meaning of Yisrael: It's about struggle, not victory

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Lately I have been collecting material for a Bat Mitzvah workshop that I host. I asked Rav Yoni Lavi what is the most important message in his opinion to pass along to 11-13 year old girls during this time. His suggestion seems to me appropriate for girls and boys too, for that matter, of every age.

"Our name is Yisrael. We received it in this week's Torah portion, after the victory of Jacob over the angel: 'No longer will it be said that your name is Yaakov, but Yisrael, for you have striven with the Divine and with man and have prevailed.' Read this passage well. According to the words, it would be more correct to call us 'prevailer' and not Yisrael (literally, God will strive or striving with God). And yet, we see that the emphasis is on the 'striver,' on the struggle, on determination and persistence, and not on the result or the achievement.

We will not win every battle in life, but we are a nation of fighters and strivers. Adolescence is an age of overcoming in which we join an eternal group that perpetually strives to do more. This is the most important thing to remember, from childhood on: We are named after the struggle, and not after the victory. Not after our successes, but after our trials."


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