After Yosef revealed himself to his brothers in Parshat Vayigash, the brothers travel back to Yakov (Jacob) to relay the good news. After momentary disbelief, Yakov’s spirits are lifted (45:27) and the next Passuk relates that Yisrael immediately informed everyone that he will go see Yosef before he dies (45:28). Why did the Torah call him Yakov in one Passuk and Yisrael in the very next verse? Furthermore, in Pessukim (verses) 46:2, 46:5 and 46:8 the names Yisrael and Yakov are both used. Which is it, and why the variance?
Rabbi Shimon Klein (etzion.org.il) suggests that the name Yakov reflects a human perspective dealing with natural human and grounded interactions, while Yisrael expresses a higher destiny, meaning and perspective, a name declared by G-d Himself. Once Yakov realizes that Yosef was alive, he realized that there was a higher purpose that was now set in motion, and that a nation was being formed, as “Bnei Yisrael.” G-d then address’s Yakov’s mortal fears of leaving a land he was told not to leave (46:2), reassuring him that a great nation will emerge. Then the newly minted nation carried Yakov to Egypt for the next stage of their journey (46:5).
The whole is always bigger than its parts, and a group functions better than individuals. Our Parsha takes it a step further: A higher purpose not only transforms us when we’re together, it transforms us as individuals as well. G-d told Yakov (46:2) that he, as Yakov, should not be afraid of the challenges that lie ahead. We as individuals should not be afraid of life’s challenges, for a higher purpose not only unites us as a people, but empowers us as individuals.