Tradition, Tradition! by Rabbi Josh Kahn


As Yaakov Avinu began his journey down to Mitzrayim, beginning a Galut which would last 210 years, he provided a valuable blueprint for success.  The first Pasuk in Perek 46 describes Yaakov’s first rest stop on the way at Be’eir Sheva, as Yaakov offered a Korban to Hashem.  The Ramban points out that this rest area was not randomly selected; rather, it had a very unique status as the “Beit Tefilah” of the Avot.  The Torah then describes that this Korban was brought to the God of Yitzchak.  Why did Yaakov refer to Hashem as the God of Yitzchak, as opposed to his own God?

In the next Pasuk, there is another unusual event as God calls out to Yaakov in the middle of the night.  This event is extraordinary because this call to Yaakov is the only time we find Hashem calling out to one of the Avot at night.  The Gemara in Berachot (26b) notes that Yaakov established the prayer of Maariv which furthers the assertion that Yaakov seems to be uniquely linked to night time.

In Jewish thought, night time corresponds to exile since it is a time of darkness, a time of strict judgment, and a time when it is difficult to discern the presence of Hashem.  Yaakov was the first of the Avot to go into Galut, and therefore naturally relates to night time. Yaakov knew how to successfully navigate this night time and he alluded to it in his departure to Egypt. The Meshech Chochmah notes that Yaakov seized every opportunity to grab onto Zechut Avot, the merits of his forefathers.  He davened in the place that had exclusive ties to Avraham and Yitzchak, and entreated Hashem as the God of Yitzchak.  Yaakov realized that, in order to succeed in Egypt, the Jewish people must take the Kedushah they previously had in Canaan and transport it with them.  Yaakov understood that this Kedushah was based on the tradition that preceded him and he therefore utilized this tradition, referring to Hashem as the God of Yitzchak, when asking Hashem to protect them in the night time. Yaakov’s notion of taking the preexisting Kedushah with him into exile is described in a teaching of Chazal that, “The Shechinah dwells on someone in Chutz La’Aretz, only if it already dwelled on them in Eretz Yisrael” (Moed Katan 25a).  Galut is not the place for the initiation of holiness; rather it is a place where Kedushah can be accrued by transferring it from the Kedushah we had already possessed.

Chazal teach (Berachot 26b) that Tefilah corresponds to the Korbanot. The Tefilah of Maariv corresponds to the burning of the leftover fats that were not burned during the morning and afternoon sacrifices, a practice which is related to the Tefilah of Yaakov. Just as Yaakov built off of the preceding generations, utilizing what came before him, so too the evening sacrifice is comprised of the previous two sacrifices.  The night time sacrifice does not stand alone, since it is linked to the morning sacrifice, Avraham’s Tefilah, and the afternoon sacrifice, Yitzchak’s Tefilah.  Yaakov was distinctly qualified to establish Maariv because he was able to draw upon the Zechut of both his father and grandfather.

Ultimately, when Bnei Yisrael were saved from Mitzrayim, Chazal teach that it was because they changed neither their names nor the way in which they dressed, traits which display a strict adherence to tradition. Yaakov taught his children that the key ingredient to sustaining themselves in exile is forging a link to the Kedushah imbued in tradition, advice which enabled Bnei Yisrael to merit the redemption from Galut Mitzrayim. Hopefully, if we are able to maintain our forefathers’ various Mesorot and traditions, we too will merit a speedy redemption from the present Galut.

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