This week we read Parshas Vayigash. When Jacob finds out that Joseph is still alive, he exclaims that he wants to go see him before he dies. He prepares to go down to Egypt, and Hashem appears to him in a vision at night. Hashem calls to him, and says to him “Jacob, Jacob”. Hashem then tells him not to fear to go down to Egypt, for He will bring him down to Egypt, and He will bring him back up to Israel. (Genesis 46:2) There are a number of questions that must be addressed here. 1) Why is it that Abraham and Isaac never receive a vision at night, only Jacob? 2) Why is Jacob’s name repeated twice?
Of all the Patriarchs, Jacob is the one who leaves Israel to settle in the Diaspora. Before he does so, he needs a promise of protection from Hashem, and to have his spirits strengthened. Hashem repeats his name twice, as a sign of love and endearment. As Jacob enters Egypt, the worlds’ greatest source of impurity and immorality, Hashem shows him His closeness.
Our sages teach us that Abraham was the one who founded praying in the morning; (shachris); Isaac was the one who founded prayer in the afternoon (mincha); Jacob is the one who introduced prayer at night (maariv). What does this mean? Why is Jacob the one who introduces prayer at night?
Jacob is the Jew who lives in exile; Jacob is the Jew who descends from Israel to the exile; Jacob is the Jew who sees and recognizes the hand of Hashem in the darkness of night. Even when the exile is dark, and oppressive. When Hashem appears to Jacob at night He is teaching him this lesson: even in the darkness of exile, Hashem is there. It is still possible to get close to Him.
We read in Psalms “Hashem will answer you in a day of pain; The G-d of Jacob will fortify you. Why do we refer to Hashem as the G-d of Jacob?
Jacob is the one who gives us this message of support and encouragement. Even in the darkness of exile, when things seem hopeless, and we could despair, Hashem will strengthen us and save us.