The Awakening Self

The Hebrew word Yisrael, or Israel, has been used in the Judaic tradition as a label for the Judaic "tribe" as a whole, and for the land that the tradition has held as sacred.

The name Yisrael was first used in Genesis 32 in the story of Jacob wrestling with a "stranger" from Heaven. In this story Jacob is at a crossroads in his life and he heads off alone in the middle of the night and ends up wrestling with a divine force in order to receive a blessing. This blessing finally was given to Jacob in the form of a new name, Yisrael.

This name has several mystical meanings that all relate to the process described in the story (Gordis, 1995). These definitions include: One who wrestles or struggles with the Divine; one who yearns for the Divine; the song of the Divine; and the Awakening Self (the Self that struggles to awaken to it's true oneness with the Divine).

A mystical translation of this biblical story reveals the archetypal psycho-spiritual pattern of our struggle to awaken to our true Self and the Divine:

In the middle of the night Jacob arose

and sent his loved ones and all his possessions

across the river of struggles.

Jacob remained alone.

A stranger appeared and wrestled with him

until the break of day.

The stranger saw that Jacob was strong in faith

and touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh,

causing a great strain.

The stranger said:

"Let me leave for the dawn is breaking."

Jacob told the stranger:

"I will not let go until I am blessed."

The stranger replied:

"Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,

the one who strives to awaken

and know the truth of the Divine."

Jacob asked the stranger's name.

The stranger replied:

"Why do you seek my name?"

He then blessed Jacob.

Jacob named the place Divine Face and said:

"I have seen the Divine face to face,

and my soul has withstood it."

The sun rose and was shinning on him

as he continued on his way.

- Genesis 32:23-32


Gordis, D. (1995). God was not in the fire. New York: Scribner.

*Image: Jacob wrestling with the Angel of God

*Originally published on KabbalahBlog hosted by

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