"How good are your tents, O Jacob; your sanctuaries, O Israel." (Num. 24:5, Siddur/Prayer liturgy)

Both names of the patriarch Jacob: Jacob and Israel, refer to the Jewish people as a nation. "Jacob" refers to them in their role as God’s servant (as in the verse, "fear not, My servant Jacob" (Isaiah 44:2, et al.)), while "Israel" refers to them in their role as God’s children (as in the verse, "Israel is My firstborn son" (Num. 4:22)). We all play both roles, sometimes exclusively one or the other, sometimes both while emphasizing on one or the other.

A child...has internalized his parents’ values...

The servant serves his master because he fears him, while the child we are speaking of here is devoted to his parents out of love for them. Thus, the relationship between a servant and a master is superficial; the servant would rather not perform his service, but he does so because he has no choice. A child, in contrast, has internalized his parents’ values; they have successfully inculcated their child to appreciate what they are working for and the child therefore helps them willfully.

Thus, "tents" are mentioned in connection with Jacob and "sanctuaries" with Israel. A tent is an external, protective covering, while a sanctuary is the actual home-structure the tent protects. When we serve God as "Jacob," as disciplined, faithful servants, even though at that moment our animal side is ascendant and we would rather be doing other things, we make "tents," protective "force-fields" that shield the Divine life we have built for ourselves so far from the intrusion of evil, negative, or animalistic consciousness. When we serve God as "Israel," as loving, devoted children, we make our lives into a "sanctuary" for God, enhancing our Divine consciousness and identifying with God’s values and dreams for His world.

Based on Sefer HaMa’amarim Yiddish, p. 122]
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org