Yisra'el and Issur #general

Judith Romney Wegner

: Dr Saul Issroff wrote:
from Bereishit 32:25-29. A contraction of two Hebrew words:
Yasor- Nobly contended
with, and prevailed, Eil-God. "Nobly contended with God and
prevailed". Yaakov's name
was changed to Yisra'eil after he dreamt he had made battle
the Angel of God and
prevailed. This triumphant dream battle of Yaakov is the
symbolic contention with God
that brought in its wake God's renaming him Yisra'eil.
The above paragraph (quoted by Dr. Issroff >from some other
contains several
inaccuracies that need to be straightened out, or they will
mislead many readers.

First, the root of the biblical Hebrew word meaning to "strive"
or "contend with" is NOT
y-s-r (i.e., not "yasor" as stated above) but "s-r-h" -- which,
in the form found in the name
Yisra'el, has dropped the weak third root letter"h" and prefixed
the third person singular
pronoun "he" (represented here by placing the letter "y" before
the two remaining root
letters "s-r." The source quoted by Dr.Issroff must be totally
ignorant of Hebrew grammar, or he/she would never have made the
error of supposing that the root letters of the verb here are
"y-s-r" rather than "s-r-h."

Second, the folk-etymological explanation of the name Yisra'el
presented in Genesis
32:29) is only "contended with God" (i.e., NOT "contended with
as stated above). In the biblical text, the word that DOES mean
"and prevailed" is the
last word in the sentence -- "va-tukhal" (literally "and you
prevailed"). The complete
biblical phrase is as follows: "ki/sarita/ `im ha-Elohim/ ve`im
anashim/va-tukhal" -- which
means: "for/you strove/with God/and with men/ and you prevailed"
-- but it is only >from the
two words "SaRita" and ELohim" that the name "YiSrRa-EL" is
claimed to originate.

Third, although the biblical text gives this traditional
derivation, modern scholarship
understands it as a folk-etymological intrepretation. A
more plausible explanation is that Yisra'el may be derived from
name of his eponymous
ancestor Sarah. (In the book of Genesis, Jacob, whose name is
changed to Israel in this
story, was the book of Genesis.)

Finally, I was intrigued by Dr. Issroff's assertion elsewhere in
his message that the name
Isser is a Yiddishized form of the name Yisra'el. In fact, Issur
is a completely separate
name, found in the Talmud (hence obviously pre-Yiddish); a
character called Issur Giora
(Issur the Proselyte) appears in tractates Bava Batra and Avodah
Zarah. What is the
evidence that Issur/Isser/Issar Isser is a Yiddishized form of
Yisra'el? For instance, does
any Jgenner have an ancestor whose Hebrew name was Yisra'el but
whose Yiddish name
was Issur? BTW, Issur was the given name at birth of Kirk

Judith Romney Wegner

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