In Parshat Vayishlach we see our forefather Yaakov preparing for battle with his brother Eisav. However, during the night, Yaakov is attacked by a strange man. When the sun is about to come up and the fight is drawing to a close, Yaakov does something very peculiar: he requests a Berachah from the man he has been fighting all night. Why does Yaakov ask the man who attacked him in the middle of preparations for battle for a blessing? The fight is over, so why would he not simply let the man leave?
Chazal answer that Yaakov’s adversary is no ordinary man. Yaakov has really been fighting Eisav’s angel the entire night. When Yaakov asks for a blessing, he is actually asking Eisav’s angel to admit that the blessings Yitzchak gave Yaakov are truly Yaakov’s. How does the angel respond? He proceeds to change Yaakov’s name to Yisrael. How does this simple name change reflect the angel’s new attitude toward the validity of Yaakov’s Berachot from Yitzchak?
For an answer, we may look at the word Yisrael. The first letter, “Yud,” stands for both Yaakov and Yitzchak. The second letter, “Sin,” stands for Sarah. The third letter, “Reish,” stands for both Rachel and Rivkah. The fourth letter, “Alef,” stands for Avraham. The last letter, “Lamed,” stands for Leah. With each letter representing a Patriarch or a Matriarch, the new name shows that the blessing Yitzchak gave Yaakov, which was that the Jews would emerge from him, belongs only to Yaakov and not Eisav.