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    The events surrounding the name Yaakov are very puzzling. The Torah explains that he was given the name because upon birth, “V’yodo ochezes ba’akeiv Esav — And his hand grasped the heel [of his twin] Esav.” Now, why would we name — for perpetuity — one of the greatest men to ever live after a seemingly insignificant happening in the birthing room?

    The Tur on Chumash gives a beautiful and revealing explanation. He teaches us that when a mother delivers twins, after the first one is born, she usually has to go through the entire pain of labor and delivery a second time. With kindness already apparent in his infancy, Yaakov wanted to spare his mother a second round of pain. He therefore held on to his brother’s heel and came out at the same time as Esav, thus saving his mother from having to go through the birth pains twice.

    Thus, the name Yaakov – at its very inception – is a symbol of kindness and compassion. Now, when we think of the hundreds of Beis Yaakov schools for girls that, Baruch Hashem, sprinkle the world, we will attach greater significance to its meaning for, amongst many things, it stands for Houses of Chesed in the footsteps of our great father Yaakov.

    Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum, the great Marbetz Torah and creator of Dial-A-Daf and Dial-A-Shiur, shared another interesting insight into the name Yaakov with me. As we know, we give names to commemorate miracles that happened. Thus, when Moshe Rabeinu was saved from the sword of Paroh, he called his son Eliezer which stands for “Elokei avi b’ezri – The G-d of my father came to my defense.” Similarly, Bisya, the daughter of Paroh, called Moshe Rabeinu by the name Moshe, “Ki minhamayim mishisihu — From the water, I have drawn him,” in order to commemorate the miracle of her hand telescoping 400 amos to reach Moshe Rabeinu. We know that Esav was called by that name because it can also be read ‘asoo,’ completed, for Esav was born fully formed and, as the Targum Ben Uziel elaborates, he already had a beard, front teeth, and even molars.

    Did you ever wonder why Rivka, who was only twenty-two when she had the twins, never had any more children? The answer is that Esav, deciding he didn’t want any further competition from siblings, kicked ferociously upon exiting his mother’s womb and destroyed it. This is one of the reasons he was called Edom, ruddy red, because he emerged full of his mother’s blood. Then, Esav shifted his murderous intentions to his little twin, figuring he could get rid of all the competition by smashing straight into the vulnerable fontanel of Yaakov’s delicate infant head with his heel. But, lo and behold, Hashem made a miracle and Yaakov’s weak infant hand was able to hold back the full force of Esav’s murderous heel. Thus, the name Yaakov commemorates this great miracle for eternity. See how much history is hidden in the Biblical Names!

    As we know, Yaakov was given another name – Yisroel — and it is with this name that our People and our Land are primarily identified. Klal Yisroel and B’nei Yisroel are the names of our People, while Eretz Yisroel is the proud name of our Land.

    Let me share with you in closing a fascinating insight into the name Yisroel. The letters that make up this very special name (yud-sin-reish-aleph-lamed) form an abbreviation that stands for all of our Avos and Imahos, our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The yud stands for Yitzchak and Yaakov; the sin for Sarah; reish, for Rivka and Rochel. The aleph stands for Avraham and, finally, the lamed for Leah. Thus, in a very profound way, we are the B’nei Yisroel, the children of our Great Forefathers and Mothers.

    Once again, as we further see the depth of Jewish names, may Hashem bless us to fulfill the potentials hidden in our names in good health and much happiness.