Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Jacob is called g-d

Megila (18a) Rav Acha also said in the name of Rav Eleazar: How do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, called Jacob God Because it says, And the God of Israel called Jacob G-d. For should you suppose that what the text means is that Jacob called the altar G-d, then it should be written, ‘And Jacob called it’. But as it is not written so, we must translate, ‘He called Jacob G-d’. And who called him so? The G-d of Israel).

 The majority of commentaries either ignore this gemora or say it means other than what it clearly says 

 Rashi (Bereishis 33:20) AND HE CALLED IT EL-ELOHE ISRAEL — It does not mean that the altar was named “The God of Israel” thus bearing a Divine Name, but because the Holy One blessed be He, had been with him and delivered him he called the name of the altar by a term that had an allusion to the miracle, so that the praise of God might be mentioned when people called it by its name. Thus it would mean: He who is El, God — viz, the Holy One, blessed be He — is the God of me whose name is Israel. We find something similar in the case of Moses (Exodus 18:15): “And he called its (the altar’s) name Adonai-Nissi. Not that the altar was called by the Divine Name Adonai, but he named the altar thus, to mention the praise of the Holy One, blessed be He: “The Lord — He is my banner!" Our Rabbis, of blessed memory, expounded it thus: that the Holy One, blessed be He, called Jacob by the name El. The verse therefore should be translated “and the God of Israel called him (Jacob) El” (Megillah 18a). And in reference to all these different explanations it may be said that the words of the Torah — just as a hammer splits the rock into many different pieces (Shabbat 88b) — may be given many different explanations. I however make it my aim to give the plain sense of Scripture.

Netziv (Bereishis 33:20) The medrash explains that Yakov called himself god. The doesn’t mean that he called himself G-d, Heaven forfend!, but that he called himself Israel and consequently G-d was called the G-d of Israel. In other words that Yakov prayed before the altar “ The G-d of Avraham and the G-d of Yitzchok and the G-d of Israel. Yakov was punished for this with the incident of his daughter Dinah being raped as is stated in Bereishis Rabbah (79:8). In other words even though an angel had told him that his name had been changed to Israel, nevertheless G-d had not called that as we see in the gemora. .

Ibn Ezra (Bereishis 33:20) [AND CALLED IT EL-ELOHE-ISRAEL.]43 Saadiah explained that and called it El-elohe-Israel means, He called to the Lord, “El-elohe-Israel.”44 However, the correct interpretation is that he called the altar El-elohe-Israel (God, the God of Israel). Moses similarly called the altar he erected Adonai-nissi (the Lord is my banner) (Ex. 17:15) because of the miracle God performed in that place. Similarly, when the Divine Presence will once again return to Jerusalem, the city will be called Adonai-shammah (the Lord is there) (Ezek. 48:35). Jacob similarly called the altar whereupon he served the Lord, El-elohe-Israel (God, the God of Israel) because God came to his aid. The name El (God) means the One who is powerful and mighty.45

Ramban (Bereishis 33:20) AND HE CALLED ‘LO’ (IT) E-IL-ELOKEI-ISRAEL. It does not mean that the altar was called “The G-d of Israel,” but because the Holy One, blessed be He, had been with him to deliver him, he named the altar in honor of the miracle so that the praise of the Holy One, blessed be He, would be recalled when people referred to the altar. Thus it would mean, “He Who is E-il is the G-d of me whose name is Israel.” Similarly we find in the case of Moses: And he called its [the altar’s] name Adonai-nissi.108 It is not that the altar was called by the Divine Name Adonai but rather that he named the altar in honor of the miracle so that the praise of the Holy One, blessed be He, might be mentioned: “G-d — He is my banner.” Our Rabbis expounded that the Holy One, blessed be He, called Jacob eil (a great and mighty man). [According to this, the verse should be interpreted as follows: “And the G-d of Israel called Jacob eil].” The words of the Torah are thus as a hammer splitting the rock into many different pieces, admitting many different explanations. I, however, make it my aim to render the plain sense of Scripture. All of this is the language of Rashi.

Rabbeinu  Bachye (Bereishis 33:20) ויצב שם מזבח ויקרא לו אל אלוהי ישראל , “he set up an altar there and he called it G’d, G’d the Lord of Israel.” The plain meaning of these words is that Yaakov named the altar after the G’d who had performed a miracle for him at that site. Moses did something similar as the Torah reports in Exodus 17,16 after Israel had warded off the attack by Amalek “Moses built an altar and called it: ‘G’d is My banner.’”A kabbalistic approach: the G’d of Israel called Yaakov “EL.” This is also what our sages have said in Bereshit Rabbah 79,8. The wording there is that G’d said to Israel: “I am G’d in heaven whereas you are “EL” on earth.” This would reflect what we have quoted repeatedly that Yaakov’s likeness is engraved on the throne of G’d.

Chizkuni (Bereishis 33:20) ויקרא לו, He called it אל, the construction is similar to Genesis 20 13: אמרי לי אחי הוא, “say, concerning me, that he is my brother.” The word לו here may be understood as if it had been עלי, “on it,” in other words: he proclaimed the altar as dedicated the G-d Who is the G-d of Israel. This is also how Onkelos translates it. Rashi emphasizes that it was not the altar that was called: “the G-d of Israel,” by the nations of the world, but that Yaakov called it by a name that symbolized the special relationship between G-d and Israel on account of all the miracles He had performed for him. It is not so different from when he called the site where he had the dream with the ladder 34 years earlier, Beis El (Genesis 5,7), after he erected an altar there. We find a similar construction in Judges 6,24 where Gideon built an altar in honor of G-d, and named it: ה' שלום. This is also how we understand the name Moses gave the altar he built after having fought off the Amalekites in Exodus 17,17 which became known as ה' נסי, “the Lord is my Banner.”

 Mizrachi(Bereishis 33:20) And he called the name of the altar by the name of the miracle as if he called it G-d. In other words he said because the G-d of Israel is my G-d  since my name is Israel. The explanation of “my G-d” is that He has saved me from all attacks and therefore it is equivalent to calling the altar “G-d is my miracle”. Bereishis Rabbah gives a different explanation that Yakov said You are G-d in the upper realm and I am G-d in the lower realm since the image of Jakob is engaved on the throne of glory.

However the Maharal notes that in fact Yakov is godly

ויש לך להבין גם כן למה קראו הקב"ה ליעקב "אל" - שהוא אלוה בתחתונים, כי העולם התחתון נתן הקב"ה לבני האדם, כדכתיב (לעיל א, כו) "וירדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים", וכל האומות נתן הקב"ה תחת ישראל, כדכתיב (דברים כח, א) "ונתנך ה' עליון על כל גויי הארץ", ואין ספק כי הם עליונים על כל האומות, וכל האומות תחת רשותם וממשלתם בעשותם רצון בוראם, ומקודשים ומובדלים מכלל כל הנמצאים. ויעקב יצא ממנו האומה הישראלית שנקרא 'ישראל' על שמו, והוא סבה להם, ולפיכך אמר הכתוב "ויקרא לו אל אלקי ישראל", שהקב"ה קראו "אל" בתחתונים, שכל התחתונים תחת רשותו כמו שנתבאר לך למעלה, וכל זה מצד התחתונים בלבד:

 Bereishis Rabbah (79:8) AND HE ERECTED THERE AN ALTAR, AND CALLED IT EL-ELOHE-ISRAEL (XXXIII, 20). Jacob declared to Him: ‘Thou art God in the celestial spheres and I am a god in the terrestrial sphere.’ R. Huna commented in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish: God reproved him: ' Even the synagogue superintendent cannot assume authority of himself, yet thou didst take authority to thyself. To-morrow thy daughter will go out and be dishonoured!’ Hence it is written, And Dinah the daughtcr of Leah went out, etc. (Gen. 34:1).

 ילקוט שמעוני תורה פרשת וישלח רמז קלג
במאה קשיטה [ל"ג, י"ט] א"ר עקיבא כשהלכתי לאפריקא היו קורין למעה קשיטה, מנין שקרא הקדוש ברוך הוא ליעקב אל שנא' ויצב שם מזבח ויקרא לו אל אלהי ישראל [ל"ג, כ], אי סלקא דעתך למזבח קרא ליה יעקב אל ויקרא לו יעקב אל מבעי' ליה אלא מי קראו אל אלהי ישראל [ל"ג, י"ט]:
הנה [כל] המושל עליך ימשול [לאמר] כאמה בתה לית תורתא נגחא עד דברתא בעיטא לית איתתא זני עד דברתא זני א"ל א"כ לאה אמנו זונה היתה א"ל לפי שכתוב ותצא לאה לקראתו יצאה מקושטת כזונה לפיכך כתיב ותצא דינה בת לאה [ל"ד, א], וכחכי איש גדודים כשם שהלסטים הללו יושבים על הדרך והורגים בני אדם ונוטלין את ממונם כך עשו שמעון ולוי לשכם, חבר כהנים כשם שהכהנים מתחברים על הגורן ליטול חלקם כך עשו שמעון ולוי לשכם, דרך ירצחו שכמה מדרך רצחו לשכם:

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