Jacob called his children, ‘Assemble yourselves and hear, O children of Jacob, and listen to Israel, your father’ (Genesis 49:2).
It is interesting that the children of Jacob are asked to gather and listen. They come together in order to listen to Israel and not Jacob. Why are both names used for our patriarch in one sentence? We know that Israel is not his birth name. Rebecca and Isaac named him Jacob at birth. It was much later in life, when he had attained the high moral understanding that he was worthy of the name, Israel (“you have ‘striven’ with beings divine and human and have prevailed” – Genesis 32:29). Israel symbolizes a spiritual consciousness, a connection to God.
Jacob’s last words to his children were for them to come together to unite as the “children of Jacob” – sharing one descent and one nationality. But that is not enough. You must “listen to Israel, your father,” so that every time Jews gather together, their purpose is to strengthen the spirit of Judaism. That night, on the other side of the Jabbok, Jacob was blessed by becoming Israel. When we are Israel, we arrive at a new plateau also. The day dawns as we realize the blessings we have earned and prevail over adversities, anointed by God to lead us into a secure future.