Sanhedrin 107a(1) suggests that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all tested (while David was not). Abraham was tested 10 times, Isaac was tested at the Akedah...But what was Jacob's test? And where do we find this in the midrash (i.e. what is the source of your answer)?

Related to this question:Why was no one else tested 10 times the way Avraham was?

(1) Rab Judah said in Rab's name: One should never [intentionally] bring himself to the test, since David king of Israel did so, and fell. He said unto Him, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Why do we say [in prayer] "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," but not the God of David? ' He replied, 'They were tried by me, but thou wast not.'


5 Answers 5


Maharal answers this in Hidushe Agadot

ויעקב נתנסה מה שהיה בעל צרה כדכתיב (בראשית מ"ג)‏ ואל שדי שאמר לעולמו די יאמר לצרותינו די, ולכן אמר לפרעה (בראשית מ"ז) ימי שנותי מעט ורעים ועוד כתיב ועוד כתיב (בראשית ל"ה) לאל העונה אותי ביום צרתי וגו'. לכך כתיב (תהילים כ') יענך ה' ביום צרה ישגבך אלהי יעקב ובמדרש (שוחר טוב שם) מפני כי יעקב היה בעל צרה ולכך כתיב ישגבך שם אלהי יעקב מי שענה את יעקב בצרתו יענה אותך (כי יעקב)‏

in summary Maharal said that some verse testimony that the life of Yaakov was accompanied with a great suffering. Here is the list of the verses, translated in English.

  1. (Genesis 43, 14) "And God Almighty give you mercy before the man", "Almighty" is wrote SHA--DAY, the drush is as he said at world creation "Stop it now!", He will say for our suffering "Stop it now!". We see that Yaakov has numerous griefs.
  2. (Genesis 47, 9) "few and evil have the days of the years of my life been"
  3. (Genesis 35, 3) "few and evil have the days of the years of my life been"
  4. (Psalms 30, 2) "in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob defend you! " as if he says that Jacob was answered in trouble times.

But Maharal himself doesnt list the hardships of Yaacov. Briefly, we see griefs, the first problem with Lavan concerning Rachel, last problems with Lavan, problems with Dina, Rachel, Yosef, Binyamin, with Esaw.


So it seems that Midrash Tanhuma (Beha'alotecha 13) explicitly says Yaakov was "tried" through his "tzarot" and names: being exiled from his parent's house, Esau, Dina, and Joseph. It also says that Isaac's trial was not the Akeidah but the "days of Avimelech."


I was told that wrestling with the Angel was Jacob's test (according to Rashi, expounding on ויאבק איש in Bereishis 32:25, this was the ministering angle of Esau; he cites Bereishis Rabbah 77:3 for that).

I can understand this in one direction -- after he passed the test (defeated the angel) he was given a reward (change of name), but not in another: What was the test testing? Surely not a test of physical strength or wrestling prowess, for that would not merit such recognition. I speculate that the test is whether his nishama is strong enough to be comfortable with the deception in his past in obtaining the birthright from Esau.

  • 1
    "I was told" by whom, please, or in whose name?
    – msh210
    Oct 30, 2016 at 17:56

Jacob clearly had an extremely difficult life. For example, Esav tries to kill him, he must flee, he is exploited by Lavan. Has to flee again. His children don't get along. Then they stage Yosef's death, and sell him into slavery. No Midrash is necessary to demonstrate the difficulty of his life. In fact Ya'akov states it himself in Genesis (47:9):

יְמֵי שְׁנֵי מְגוּרַי, שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה: מְעַט וְרָעִים, הָיוּ יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיַּי, וְלֹא הִשִּׂיגוּ אֶת-יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי אֲבֹתַי, בִּימֵי מְגוּרֵיהֶם.

'The days of the years of my sojournings are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojournings.' (Trans. JPS)

  • Any source that these were nisyonos for him? (Not that I doubt it.)
    – msh210
    Oct 30, 2016 at 6:26
  • Yaakov seemed to think these were difficult testing situations.unless you provide some other definition for the word that seems like proof enough.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 30, 2016 at 9:05

It was the deceit of Itzchok in order to receive the coveted bracha that he planned to bestow on the evil Esav. Yaakov was placed into a situation where he was convinced that it was Hashem's will that he deceive his own father in a matter of grave significance. The Emes Leyaakov (by R. Yaakov Kamenetsky) on Parshas Toldos (27:12) compare this as Yaakov's own Akeida demonstrating that this test for Yaakov was comparable in difficulty to that of Avraham.

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