Flowing water can be considered as a metaphor for change as it runs continually down the riverbed. It can also be considered as a metaphor for change in terms of making a crossing. In fact, the Jewish people gained two of our names from crossing rivers.

Our first ancestor, Abraham was called “the Hebrew,Avraham Ha-Ivri, which the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 42:13) says may mean that he came from “beyond the Euphrates River”), and also alludes to the fact that “the whole world was on one side and Abraham on the other” as he established a new, monotheistic religion.


Likewise, his grandson Jacob (Ya’akov) had a name change to “Israel” (Yisrael) as he struggled with a mysterious man after crossing the Jabbok (Yabok) River (Ma’avar Yabok, which sounds like a pun on “the changing of Ya’akov,” Etz Hayim Torah Commentary). Some see Jacob’s wrestling with this divine emissary as a battle within his own soul, a coming to terms his own past. Rabbi Arthur Waskow famously translated Yisrael as “Godwrestler.” (Genesis 32)

Consider and Comment: What kinds of crossings have you had in your life? Have you dared to take an unpopular stand you knew was right? Have you wrestled with difficult ideas and challenges? Did you receive a new title or name, externally or inside yourself?

And more on Hebrew names: Were you given a Hebrew name, or would you like to choose or add one? I learned years ago from Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg that we can change or add to our Hebrew names, and perhaps that would be a meaningful choice for you.

Featured photo: “Tulul adh-Dhahab and Jabbok in spring” by E. Rehfeld via Wikimedia Commons

Immerse yourself in the flow of the Psalms, or return to the Gateway of Flowing Water.