Let’s look at some פרשנות and examine the parasha textually:
The striking thing about these psukim is how יעקב's name changes to ישראל. That can’t be accidental. What does that mean? First, what do the two names themselves mean?
Two of the Avot had their names changed by הקב״ה (יצחק‘s name was given by הקב״ה before he was born). אברם’s new name completely replaced the old one:
But יעקב got to keep the old name as well:
A number of explanations are given for the difference between יעקב and ישראל, mostly variations on a theme that יעקב represents some sort of lower level than ישראל. For instance, the משך חכמה:
So what is happening in our pasuk?
What happened to יעקב's רוח נבואה, his connection to the שכינה?
And from the moment that יוסף was taken, he was מתוך עצבות over the loss of his favorite son. But it goes much deeper than that:
What was this סימן that there would be twelve tribes, that there could be no בית ישראל without all of them?
Let’s look at some other nations whose origins are listed in the Torah:
Twelve tribes in תנ״ך is symbolic of the start of a new nation; the transition from individuals to a community. יעקב wanted to end the בחירה process that had limited all of humanity to just אברהם then limited his children to just יצחק then limited his children to just יעקב. Remember that יצחק also wanted to end the בחירה and have עשו and יעקב start the new nation (presumably with 6 children each). And in fact, יוסף's brothers suspected him of trying to write them out of the “chosen people”, that he would be the start of the nation. The Torah hints that this would be possible; בני רחל also have twelve “tribes”:
So whenיעקב learns that יוסף is still alive, he realizes that his “nationhood” is again complete, and now he can become ישראל again.
So how does ישראל respond to his reinstated status? He invents a new קרבן:
But then something horrifying happens, something that’s easy to miss if you don’t pay close attention to the text:
Continuing with Hirsch’s interpretation:
ה׳ addresses him as יעקב, who immediately picks up on the hint and answers הנני, which is the language of acceptance of a mission. ישראל isn’t ready yet; this is to be not the start of a new nation but the start of the fulfillment of גר יהיה זרעך בארץ לא להם. ה׳ adds אל תירא: why should יעקב be afraid? Who mentioned fear? The answer is just what we’ve been talking about; even though יעקב will still be יעקב, things will work out for him in Egypt.
יעקב awakens from this vision realizing that he is still יעקב, not ישראל. That realization has an effect on him; whereas before he was the leader, ויסע ישראל, now he’s an old, weak man who has to be carried by his children: וישאו בני ישראל את יעקב. His children don’t realize what has just happened and what they are getting into; they still consider themselves בני ישראל. And since they don’t realize the danger, as they grow in Egypt:
וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ literally means “they were grasped by it”, they allowed Egypt to take hold of themselves. And the consequence will be the slavery in Egypt.