Yaakov Avinu was the originator of tefillas Arvis. This tefilla is very different from shacharis and mincha, as both of those are obligatory, whereas Arvis is optional. This idea is difficult to understand: If one is supposed to daven Arvis, why should he not be obligated? And if it is indeed optional, what is the idea of an “optional tefillah which Yaakov created”? The gemorah tells us that Arivs corresponds to the burning of the different inner parts of an animal which may be burnt throughout the night. This aspect of the offering has great significance in Chazal, yet the offering is kosher as long as the blood has reached the altar. This is parallel to Arvis.
One of the ways that this is explained is by the nature of the brocho said after kriyas Shema. In the morning we say “Emes v’yatziv…” whereas at night we say “Emes v’emunah…”. The commentators explain the difference between the two as follows: During the day when everything is clear, serving Hashem is readily apparent. Hence, the idea of “emes v’yatziv…”: it is true and it stands out. Whereas at night, which symbolizes the exile, we must believe that Hashem is there. Hence the idea of ”emes v’emunah…”: it is true and we believe it, even thought it isn’t apparent. When something is obvious, it is obvious to all. Whereas in regard to belief, each person may have a different level of “belief”, and some people even struggle with the basics of “belief”. Therefore, we cannot demand the tefillah of Arvis. When Yaakov went into exile he established Arvis – a tefillah at a time of haziness, knowing that not everyone would be on the level to be able to daven in dark times.
Reb Gedaliah Schorr explains that our core avodah is our belief in Hashem. A person’s job in this world is to consecrate all of his limbs and innards to the service of Hashem. This is the significant service that a person has after the basics of emunah. Yaakov Avinu, the pillar of truth, found himself in exile, not only physically away from his parents’ home, but forced to deal with unsavory people, such as Esau, Eliphaz and Lavan. Yet he persevered, returning to his parents’ home without a blemish.
On the first night of his exile when he went to sleep, the darkness of night enveloped him, and he made an oath in the morning affirming his faith. This power to rise to the challenge and even the challenges that hurt the most, is a legacy we received from Yaakov Avinu.
As bad as the exile will be, we know as Yaakov persevered, we too can champion our challenge.
Yaakov Avinu was known as “the Pillar of Truth” and the tests that he had were for him to deal with conniving, treacherous people. He was forced to best them at their own game, and still remain righteous. That is a true exile: When one is forced to act and live in a way that is the antithesis of one’s beliefs. Many times, we too find ourselves in situations that we mutter under our breath “Why does G-d have to give me this test? This is just not where I want to be!”
When this happens, we have to remember the purpose of exile and its tests is to challenge us in situations that are the most difficult, by bringing our actions in line with our faith. By doing so, we sanctify all of those appendages which are involved.