Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi
"So Israel set out with all that he had and he came to Beer-Sheva where he slaughtered sacrifices to the God of his father Yisshaq." (Beresheet 46, 1)
When we read this verse in this week's parasha, we are reading a key life change in Yaacob's life. After twenty two years of mourning Yosef's demise, Yaacob is informed that his dear son is still alive. Not only is Yosef well, but he in fact is responsible for all the food of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh himself.
Before setting out on the journey down to Egypt, Yaacob brings sacrifices and prays to Hashem. Interestingly, when looking at the verse above, we see that Yaacob refers to Hashem as the "God of his father Yisshaq". He excludes saying the "God of Abraham".
Why does Yaacob only include Yisshaq his father in his prayer?
Rashi answers this question, and writes that one must respect one's father more than one respects one's grandfather. For this reason, Yaacob was reliant on mentioning only the "God of Yisshaq" and not also mentioning the "God of Abraham" in his prayer.
When praying to succeed with his encounter with his evil brother Esav, a couple of parashiyot earlier, we see: "Then Yaacob said. ‘God of my father Abraham and God of my father Yisshaq..’" (Beresheet 32, 10)
According to the explanation of Rashi above, why did Yaacob in this prayer mention his grandfather Abraham? In addition, how could he mention Abraham before Yisshaq if Yaacob is supposed to honor his father Yisshaq more than Abraham?
Indeed we could quiet any question on Rashi by saying that Rashi in this week's parasha is coming to explain the verse before him. Rashi wants to explain why the "God of Abraham" is excluded, as naturally we would imagine that Yaacob would always use both.
Still, what more can we learn from Yaacob's prayer to Hashem before he went down to Egypt, being that Yaacob only use Yisshaq in his prayer?
We must say that in our parasha, Yaacob's prayer is deeper than it seems. Hashem commanded Yisshaq years earlier (Beresheet 26,2) not to go down to Egypt, even though a fast ravaged through the land. Yaacob remembered this about his father and needed reassurance from Hashem that it was allowed for him to go down to Egypt. Hashem responded: "I am God, the God of your father. Have no fear of descending into Egypt, for I shall establish you as a great nation there. I shall descend with you to Egypt and I shall also surely bring you up.." (Beresheet 46, 3-4)
There is an important lesson to be learnt from this prayer of Yaacob. As Yaacob set out on a path that Yisshaq never took, i.e. living a Jewish life in exile (Egypt), he was reassured by Hashem that he will succeed and return with a nation. What ensured that success? Leading a strong Jewish life, one guided by Jewish ideals and Jewish teachings. Yaacob Avinou established a Yeshivah in Egypt, as brought down by Targoum Yonatan. Only then, when creating an atmosphere of Torah, can we ensure our success in galout.