If we study the essence and lives of the three Avot, it can be suggested that they brought the world to a state of Adam HaRishon before the sin. Breaking down Adam’s sin, we find three elements: One a lack of heeding God’s command; second, a fall from kedusha; and third, a new existential battle between good and bad. When we look to the Avot we find a tikkun of these three elements. Avraham, ulike Adam, did heed God’s commandments, such as Lech Lecha and to take his son to do the Akeida. Yitzchak was the tikkun of the lack of kedusha that entered the world after the sin, for Yitzchak had the status of a holy korban, his ashes lying before God. Yaakov, emanating from the pure kedusha of Yitzchak, becomes the paradigm as the one who can conquer the evil in Eisav that was produced from the tumah of the snake.
The Midrash notes that Avraham came to recognize God on his own. He sensed the Almighty and believed in Him. Nonetheless, as Tosefot in Kiddushin points out, to follow commands that you’re obligated in is much more difficult than engaging in voluntary ones, as there’s more at stake. This explains the greatness of Avraham in not only following God’s commands but raising himself to pass nisyonot that shattered human reach. But the bottom line is Avraham did follow God’s commands. He heard, listened and did. This is in stark contrast to Adam, who took the advice of Chava and did not heed God’s command to refrain from eating from the tree. Adam had one central command upon him, and he couldn’t hold it. Avraham had numerous ones and he heeded them all. Therefore, Avraham was a tikkun for the element of Adam’s not listening to God’s simple command.
As is pointed out by all the commentators, the Torah barely touches the life of Yitzchak. This is because he was basically perfection. Einstein’s E = mc2 didn’t take up a lot of pages. We find Yitzchak often davening. He was fully pure. After Adam had his fall from grace, the kedusha in the world was contaminated. Yitzchak brought back that kedusha.
The Zohar notes that one of the satanic angels took control of the snake to encourage Chava to err. After succeeding, the poison of the snake entered Chava and then became mixed in with the future births of Adam and Chava. The birth of Yaakov and Eisav was a replica of this experience. Eisav was the manifestation of tumah from the snake while Yaakov was God’s ambassador in this world (as his face exists under the throne of God, and he represented emet, just as God’s signature is emet). This is why Yaakov had to fight Eisav’s angel. This angel was representative of the original angel that controlled the snake to trick Chava. Yaakov’s calling was to be a warrior. In this parsha it says Vayetzei, connoting a going out by free will. Yaakov, out of his own free will, went to battle Eisav. The only way to beat Eisav, the yetzer hara, is to conduct a free-will battle, and then God will deliver him. And though Yaakov achieved great strides in his battles, he was still scarred from the battle. That is why Yaakov represents Maariv, because it’s a reshut to battle the yetzer hara, and also because Ma’ariv represents galut, darkness, which still remains.
For the ushpizin on Sukkot we invite all the great Avot into the sukkah, and one of them is David. David took 70 years from the perfection of Adam HaRishon and therefore it’s only David who’s going to be able to slay the yetzer hara in the end and bring the world back to its ultimate perfection. However, it’s the three Avot who set the stage for this ultimate war to succeed.
By Steven Genack