Dvar for Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43)
Rachel’s dying wish was to name her second son “Ben-Oni,” “son of my pain,” but Yakov instead calls him Binyamin (35:18). There is great significance to names given in the Torah. Why is someone’s wish for a name ignored, even more so Rachel’s wish during the last days before she passed?
Among the explanations given, one is that while Rachel focused on the negative when naming her son (the pain she endured), Yakov thought it best to focus instead on more positive things, like the fact that Binyamin was born despite Yakov’s old age (Rashi), or the fact that one of Binyamin’s descendants, Mordechai (called “ish yemini,” the root Yud-Mem-Nun also shared by Binyamin), would one day save the Jews. It could also be even more poignant: Rachel’s pain would one day emerge as a positive, as the Jews would be able to pray at her grave many years later. Yaakov’s resolve in changing his son’s name to Binyamin is not at all about suppressing the pain but actually about using the pain as a source of strength.