He lived as Jacob…he died as Israel.
In Parsha Vayechi, we are told that a man began as one person, and ended as another.
The words of the Torah, the Bible, are crafted in such a way so that nothing is left up to chance.
There is something utterly important here. We are being told that Jacob was the “poster child” for transformation.
The patriarchs that came before Jacob, Abraham and Isaac, were prophets. They are our templates for living a meaningful, vivid and packed life. They were men of flesh and blood yet at the same time other -worldly in their connection and commitment to G-d, faith, nation. They are our ideals.
So too Jacob. He was one of them. Yet according to the brilliant Rav Dov Bear Pinson, he was set apart from his father, and grandfather. Like them, he was a man of flesh and blood, but rather then prophecy, Jacob experienced dreams.
There are fundamental differences between the prophet and the dreamer, even among the ultimate prophets and the supreme dreamers of our world, our Fathers.
Let’s take a closer look.
In prophecy, one see’s a vision through clear glass. When you look through a window, you are looking ahead. Assuming the glass is not tinted, smudged, or obstructed, the clarity you see before you is glaring and undeniable. This is what the prophet’s saw.
When a prophet was granted a vision or a message about the future, he knew that he was viewing events which will occur on a future date. There was certainty. There was inevitability.
For Abraham and Isaac, tomorrow had been established already today.
In dreams, one sees a vision like that of a reflection in a mirror; an image looking back at us. What you see when you look at a mirror is not what’s really there but what your brain thinks is there. This is based on how it thinks the image is being created. What you see is a virtual image, not a real object.
Just like an image in a mirror, a dream state is not 100% clear.
Jacob had prophetic dreams. In his dreams he was transported to the future that had not yet arrived. In prophetic dreams the future has not been announced and brought down to the present. It is still the embryonic future. As a result, the future can happen in more than one way!
Dreams show us our potential future. We must act on them ourselves. We do this through our choices, our free will. We must connect the dots and fill in the outlines that permeate our lives. What we build, what we advance, what we rectify, and even what we destroy, is in part due to our free will. Our choices mark our destiny; our dreams show us the way.
This got me thinking.
Is Jacob a more “accessible” patriarch? There seems to be something more “human” about him. Because he was a dreamer, he still had that limitless potential towards the future. Limitless potential, when used properly, reminds us that we are self-determined human beings whose thoughts and feelings are important. We have self-agency. For good and for bad we carve out our reality. We are partners with G-d in this.
Like we all do, Jacob made some mistakes. In the face of many obstacles, Jacob manifested deep reserves of strength and faith. He took the time to look at his choices, and then change them for the better. He internalized those lessons. They pierced his skin, tissues, muscles, and even his bones. He had truly transformed during his lifetime.
Jacob the dreamer, became Israel, the elder, because of his choices.
This idea gives the dreamers of the world a lot of hope! Dreams become reality through the right choices. When we can look back at our lives and see progress, forward thrust, betterment, and passage, we can be assured we are on the right path. Our dreams can be within reach.
If we do it long enough, perhaps we can prepare ourselves a new name. Get ready….