In the Haamek Davar on Lech L'cha 12:17, the author tells us

a rule you should understand for all the subsequent sections of Genesis, the "book of the upright", Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: that it is coming to tell us the power of the three pillars of God's specific attention: Torah, service, and doling kindness, each of which is marked for one aspect of [His] attention. That is:

  • Torah is called a sword, as is written "bind your sword upon the thigh" and they explained in Shabas 60 "that's written about words of Torah". It comes to be a weapon of battle for those who bear it, [useful] against all sorts of battle, whether a battle of warfare or a battle against the evil inclination or a battle against illnesses and ailments. As will be explained later, 26:5, that that's why the Torah is called a watch (mishmeres): for it's a guard against all bad.
  • Service brings sustenance….
  • Doling kindness keeps peace….

Now, one should know further that even though all three of the patriarchs involved themselves in these three pillars of attention, nonetheless each of them excelled in one pillar:

  • Abraham in Torah, as he was the first to start toiling in its diligence…, and as it said in Avoda Zara 8 that the two thousand years of Torah started when Abraham was 52…. Therefore, even though he was attention-paid in sustenance and peace and honor, all the stories came [to us about him] that he came with the force of the sword to smite all his comers in a wondrous way.
  • Isaac excelled in service…. Therefore, all the stories came that he excelled in the attention paid to him in sustenance….
  • Jacob excelled in doling kindness, beyond human nature, as in the way of guarding Laban's caprines; it will be explained more ad loc. Therefore, he excelled in the attention paid to him in the keeping of peace, supernaturally.

(See there for more.)

Then, in Harchev Davar to 14, he explains why Abraham was protected from a distance, i.e. before he was threatened directly, whereas Jacob was directly threatened and then protected from that threat: It's because of

how the merit of Abraham that went before him, which was the power of Torah, was different from the merit that went before Jacob, which was the power of doling kindness and the love of peace, as I explained above. Very exaltedly great is the power of the shield of the Torah to save from a distance.

See there for more.

I don't understand. If Jacob got divine attention in the area of peace, shouldn't that protect him from a distance, viz before there was present danger, even more than divine attention in the area of battle? Divine attention in the area of battle can protect in a battle — divine attention in the area of peace should protect before the battle arrives. What am I missing here?

  • I believe the Maharal comments on a Medrash about the how talmud torah protects long term, as opposed to mitzvoth which only protect for their duration. It sounds like a similar concept since mitzvoth bein adam l'chaveiro are gemiluth chasadim. (I am curious though how this is not an inversion of אמת ליעקב חסד לאברהם.)
    – Loewian
    Dec 22 '15 at 14:17
  • I think the idea is that Torah is intellectual and transcendental, and goes beyond the physical order. As opposed to the individual mitzvot which are defined by their connection to the physical world and its limitations and conflicts, by their very nature.
    – Loewian
    Dec 22 '15 at 14:20

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