In Parshas Vayigash, Yaakov Avinu is troubled by the prospect of having to leave Eretz Yisrael. G-d appears to him at night and tells him not to be afraid. The Meshech Chochma asks, why is G-d appearing to Yaakov at night? Don't only the wicked, like Bilam, receive visions at night? The Meshech Chochma's answer centers on the concept of night representing exile. G-d was demonstrating that even in exile, He will be with Yaakov. In this week's Parsha, G-d appears to Yitzchak at night.
What message is G-d conveying to Yitzchak?
To begin to answer this question, one must examine the events that led to this prophecy. Yitzchak, after being sent away from Avimelech, settles in Grar and attempts to re-establish himself by digging wells. The first two he digs are contested. After relocating, Yitzchak digs a third well that remains unchallenged. G-d then appears to Yitzchak at night. There is much commentary on the significance of these three wells. For example, the Ramban writes that they allude to the three Temples. The first two were destroyed, and the third Temple remains.
The Vilna Gaon explains that the three wells symbolize the three facets of
. They are
/majesty/sovereignty. These attributes represent themselves in three presents that Hashem gives the Jewish people, but are acquired only with difficulty (tractate
5) - Torah (
), Eretz Yisrael (
), and the World to Come (
Rabbi Meir Belsky shlit"a writes that it is for this reason Yitzchak had to remain in Eretz Yisrael. Yitzchak served Hashem primarily through
/majesty is the facet of
that manifests itself only in Eretz Yisrael. Nowhere else do the Jewish people exhibit this attribute. Therefore Yitzchak, who is metaphysically tied to Eretz Yisroel, must remain in Eretz Yisrael. Nowhere else could he accomplish his life's mission.
This struggle to acquire Eretz Yisrael (hinted to on a physical level in the difficulty of digging the wells) is mirrored in Yitzchak's descendants by force of the ruling principal "
Ma'aseh avos siman la'banim
." The actions of the forefathers echo in the children. Yitzchak's exile
Eretz Yisrael, manifests itself with the exile of the Jewish nation under the Greeks. This exile was only
Based on the above we can now understand why G-d appeared to Yitzchak at night. It was to tell Yitzchak that even in the exile that takes place in Eretz Yisrael, He will be with him. However one question remains. Why does G-d appear to Yitzchak only after he already successfully dug the third well?
The answer could possibly be found in the commentary of the Netziv, in Emek Davar. The Netziv explains that the purpose of the second blessing to Yitzchak (bestowed to him that night) was to extend
/endearment to those who involve themselves
in Torah. They should be saved, as the Mishna in Avos says "
Kol hamikabel alav ol Torah, ma'avirin mimenu ol malchus v'ol derecho eretz,"
Anyone who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of government and earning a livelihood is removed from him. The Netziv points out that this is why, through individual divine providence, meritorious individuals survived the destruction of the Temples. All this took place in Eretz Yisrael.
Perhaps we have an understanding now why the Meshech Chochma focuses his discourse on Yaakov rather than Yitzchak. G-d's appearance to Yaakov took place
to Yaakov's leaving Eretz Yisrael. G-d's message had a personal, immediate, relevance. Therefore, the message of G-d "going down to Egypt with Yaakov," and the same for subsequent exiles, is clear. In contrast, by Yitzchak, G-d appears only
the "exile." This is because the Torah, in its fullest meaning (Written Torah and Oral Torah) is the solution to restoring sovereignty to Eretz Yisrael, as in the Temple era, is sometimes only fully understood after the trial and tribulations of the exile is over. The facet of
/wisdom/knowledge needed to acquire the World to Come, finds it test in the ability to look back at the past and understand that difficulties had one purpose - to appreciate the ability to get as close as possible to G-d in His Holy Land. Hindsight is not always 20/20. This was part of the test under the intellectual onslaught of the Greeks, and will be the case in the era prior to Moshiach when confusion will reign supreme. As G-d revealed to Yitzchak the purpose of the test - after the test, so it will be on that when G-d reveals His
to the world. The purpose of all the suffering and pain of exile with be clear. May that day come soon.