This pasuk presents an apparent change in the sequential order of the Avos, Patriarchs. Rashi interprets the pasuk to indicate that the merit of Yaakov should be sufficient to bring redemption to his children. If Yaakov’s merit is not worthy of effecting redemption, Yitzchak Avinu’s zechusim, merits, will add to the virtue on behalf of Klal Yisrael. If Klal Yisrael is still in need of support, the merits of Avraham Avinu will tip the scale in favor of Klal Yisrael. The commentators question this sequence. Yaakov Avinu is the bchir ha’Avos, the chosen of the Patriarchs, his name is engraved on the Holy Chariot. How is it that his merit is not sufficient, while that of his ancestors is able to effect redemption for Klal Yisrael ?
Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, offers a novel explanation. The first covenant was originally established between Hashem and Avraham Avinu. When Hashem later ratified the covenant with Yitzchak, it strengthened and added a new dimension to the original bris, covenant. The bris with Yaakov was the ultimate bond by which Hashem melded together the various attributes symbolized by each individual Patriarch. This bris demands Klal Yisrael’s complete participation in assuming the various attributes the three Avos bequeathed to us. As in any covenant, the complete and conscious devotion of each member assures a lasting bond.
This is the secret of Hashem’s promise to remember the individual merits of the Avos. First and foremost, the covenant with Yaakov Avinu also embodies the virtues of Yitzchak and Avraham. If Klal Yisrael is not faithful to the covenant of Yaakov due to its demanding nature, then Hashem, in His great compassion, will spare us in the merit of Yitzchak Avinu. If we have distanced ourselves from Hashem to such a degree that we can not participate in the covenant, then Hashem will call up the original covenant made with Avraham Avinu, in whose merit we will be redeemed.
Horav Shternbuch analyzes the attributes which were unique to each Patriarch and applies it to contemporary times. Yaakov Avinu embodied the middah of emes, truth, which is personified by Torah study, encompassing the greatest truth. If we do not ascribe to and excel in Torah study, then Hashem must look to the merit of Yitzchak Avinu whose attribute of mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice for Hashem, exemplifies devotion to the Almighty. If we are lacking in our devotion to Hashem, if we are complacent in mitzvah observance; if we are not inclined to “sacrifice” ourselves for Him, then Hashem looks to the middah of Avraham Avinu as the potential merit for our redemption.
Avraham epitomized the middah of chesed, kindness to others, be it in the physical or spiritual dimensions. By reaching out to our fellow Jew, we can offer him physical or moral support. By bringing him closer to religious observance, we are emulating the chesed of Avraham Avinu. This is why the closing for the first bracha, blessing, in Shemoneh Esrai is magen Avraham, the shield of Avraham. We acknowledge that Hashem, in His boundless compassion, will shield us from evil and persecution if we just maintain the middah of Avraham by performing acts of loving-kindness with others. Indeed, prior to the Final Redemption our prayers and merits will be accepted in the merit of the middah of chesed.