Perhaps, he was reflecting to himself, after all his name is “Yisroel” as well, and he mirrored the message to his inner being that “G-d is one and His name is one,” and that G-d is the ultimate cause for all salvation. Much mirroring takes place in these Parshiot, specifically by Yosef who saw his father’s image to dissuade himself from sin.
Yaakov was symbolic of the Jews in Exile. He was in constant battle with evil forces. The lesson “of his prayer” is that a “voluntary” effort is required to triumph over adversity and impurity. One who acts passively and hopes to eventually fight and conquer the evil in the world will succumb to it.
This week’s parsha begins with Ya’akov Avinu leaving Be’er Sheva and traveling to Charana. The Gemara in Berachos says that when Ya’akov Avinu was amidst his journey, he stopped and instituted the tefilla of Ma’ariv.
The Meforshim ask, why did Ya’akov find it necessary to wait to institute the tefilla of Ma’ariv? Why not do it when he was still living with Yitzchak, or while learning in Yeshivas Shem v’Ever?
The ba’alei Mussar point to this episode as a defining point in Ya’akov Avinu’s life, as well as an event which reveals the innermost dimensions of who Ya’akov was.
The Meshech Chochma has an interesting observation about the tefilla of Ma’ariv. The Gemara in Brachos says that each tefilla represents a korban which was brought in the Beis Hamikdash. Shacharis represents the korban brought in the morning, Mincha represents the korban brought in the afternoon, and Ma’ariv represents the avodah which took place at night. However, there was no real korban which was brought at night. Instead, certain parts of the afternoon korban were burned at night. The Ma’ariv Tefilla represents this burning.
The Meshech Chochma says that this isn’t a mere coincidence; rather it reveals the essence of Ma’ariv. The foundation of Ma’ariv is “Emunascha baleilos.” It’s when we call out to HaShem from darkness. The yesod of Ma’ariv is that even when we’re surrounded by darkness and there seems to be no hope, we still infuse our lives with kedusha by calling out to HaShem.
This is what the Gemara means. The purpose of Ma’ariv isn’t the same as Mincha. By Mincha, it’s still daytime and there’s still light. But when night falls and the world becomes shrouded in darkness, the avodah is to take light from the daytime and infuse the night with life. Just like by the korbanos, where at night they would burn what was already brought during the day, so too the essence of Ma’ariv is to infuse the darkness of night with the light of the day. It’s “Emunascha baleilos,” to believe in HaShem even in the darkness.
This is why Ya’akov Avinu didn’t institute Ma’ariv while he was still with Yitzchak or in Yeshiva. During those times, he was completely immersed in Avodas HaShem. There was so much light and there wasn’t any darkness. Only when he left Yitzchak’s house, left the Yeshiva and entered the outside world, did he feel the need to say Ma’ariv. Only when he first entered darkness of the outside world did he feel the need to infuse it with light.
This isn’t just the foundation of Ma’ariv, it’s also the essence of Ya’akov Avinu. Avraham and Yitzchak were people who were completely immersed in Avodas HaShem. The Seforim say that when the Torah emphasizes the Avos digging wells, they weren’t merely searching for water, rather they were spending their time digging deep beneath the crust of physicality to find the spiritual springs hidden underneath. The yesod of Ya’akov Avinu was using this world for Kedusha. His lesson was that even when a person is out in the world, even when he finds himself in darkness, he still has to infuse his life with kedusha. He still needs to elevate himself so his existence isn’t merely tied to this world, rather he exists on a higher plane with a higher consciousness.
Out of all the Avos, our likeness as a Jewish people most directly resembles Ya’akov Avinu. We’re called “Yisrael” because of him. The reason being that the essence of Ya’akov is the most everlasting out of the three. Avraham resembled Chessed. Yitzchak was Gevurah, but Ya’akov was Emes. He represented being strong in ideals and faith, even amidst our struggles. He remained steadfast, even when he ventured out into darkness.
Each person experiences dark periods in life. Each person knows what it is to be uninspired, to struggle with the knowledge of knowing that they aren’t being the person that they know they could be. The avodah is to dig deep down inside, to get in touch with our core which we inherited from Ya’akov Avinu; that even when we find ourselves in darkness, we still look for the light, that even when things aren’t going well, we turn our hearts to the right place, to truly have “emunascha baleilos.”
The gematria of פקח is יעקב. Indeed Yaakov Avinu was a clever Av who fought his essence to establish an eternal legacy.
The Vilna Gaon brings down proofs that Yaakov Avinu did in fact buy the bechor for a sum of money. We see this in the verse of Genesis (25:23), where Yakov says, וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹ֗ב הִשָּׁ֤בְעָה לִּי֙ כַּיּ֔וֹם וַיִּשָּׁבַ֖ע ל֑וֹ וַיִּמְכֹּ֥ר אֶת־בְּכֹֽרָת֖וֹ לְיַֽעֲקֹֽב – And Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day”; so he swore to him, and he sold his birthright to Jacob. It may be inferred that there was a new sale after the oath.