Jacob is called by two names in the Torah - Jacob and Israel, with the name Israel representing a higher level than the name Jacob. The Ohr HaChaim, Rav Chaim ben Attar, asks why the portion of Vayechi, which speaks about the 17 joyous years Jacob was in Egypt, refers to him as Jacob instead of Israel. The answer is that the name Israel, besides the elevated spiritual levels it represents, is indicative of Jacob’s happy times. Whenever Jacob was happy, he was called Israel, and whenever he was sad, he was called Jacob.
There are two parts to our soul; each soul has a “Jacob” and an “Israel.” The lower part of our soul, which we live with most of the time, is called Jacob, and the higher part of our soul, which is connected to the Light of the Creator, is called Israel. When the Torah mentions Jacob and Israel, the Torah is actually speaking about us - the lower part of our soul that feels sadness, and the higher part of our soul that feels joy and is truly connected to the Light.
On Shabbat, we are told we receive an additional soul. But, what does this mean? That we have an opportunity to draw the pure, higher part of our soul to us. And the additional soul that comes on Shabbat connects us to the name Israel; therefore, it is important for us to understand that if we are sad on Shabbat, we will push the additional soul, the higher level part of our soul, away. The same was true for Jacob; he could only manifest the higher part of his soul when he was joyous.
As such, one of the gifts of Shabbat is that if we are joyous, the perfected part of ourselves, the additional soul, can come down into our lives. However, if we are sad or depressed on Shabbat, it cannot.
One evening after Shabbat, a great kabbalist sat in meditation. As we are taught that drinking something warm immediately after Shabbat helps with our correction, one of this kabbalist’s students brought him something warm to drink. His eyes were closed, obviously deep in thought. After an hour, the drink got cold, so his student brought him another cup filled with something warm to drink. This drink, too, got cold. When the student brought the kabbalist a third cup of something warm, he saw his teacher open his eyes, and asked him, “What were you thinking about?”
The teacher answered, "Every Friday night, the perfect part of our soul comes down into our world and there is a correction; there is Light that this perfect part of our soul hopes and desires we will reveal and manifest. When Shabbat comes to an end, our usual soul asks the additional soul, that perfected part of ourselves, ‘Did I achieve anything? Did I correct anything?’ and if the answer is yes, both parts of the soul are happy. But if the answer is no, then they both begin crying. So, sometimes when the additional soul leaves after Shabbat, it leaves with tremendous pain because we have not corrected anything for it on Shabbat. If you could ever hear the crying of souls, it would be impossible to erase the sound from your mind because it is so terribly painful to hear.”
The kabbalist continued explaining to his student, “Every Shabbat, through our connection to our Neshama Yetara, this extra soul, we are given the ability to make a correction. And if we do not feel or awaken this joy and anticipation, this perfected part of our soul, the additional soul, leaves. So, it is only through joy—on Shabbat and even during the week—that we draw a little part of that perfected part of our soul to us. And throughout the week, if we are sad, we push away those elements of the additional soul, those elements of our perfected soul.”
Unfortunately, many of us are so disconnected from both parts of our soul that after Shabbat we do not hear or feel anything. But the lesson from this story is that every Shabbat, we are given an incredible opportunity to interact with our perfect reality, with the perfected part that each one of us possesses.
This concept of Jacob and Israel, therefore, is really about us. We cannot be called “Israel” if we are not connected to the perfected part of our soul. Hopefully, we learn from this the importance of having joy - certainly on Shabbat, but also throughout the week. And when we understand this on a deeper level, we know that to make any correction, we need to be connected to the perfected part of our soul, which we cannot do while we are sad.
On the Shabbat of Vayechi we are given the beautiful gift of both connecting to the level of “Israel,” of joy, and to the understanding that to make any corrections, we need to be truly happy.