17/18 Nov: Shabbat Toledot comes in 3:54 pm, goes out 4:58 pm
The few Parashot on Yitzhak give us very little insight as to what type of person he was. Here’s what we do know: Yitzhak is born, and next is nearly sacrificed by his father while being tested by G-d, yet is saved by the mercy of G-d. He is married off to Rivkah and has no part in the marriage process. He inherits his father Avraham’s possessions before joining with Ishmael to bury their father. We know that Yitzhak has twin sons, and that he loves the hairy, large son, Esav.
But after this, it seems like many of the accounts of Yitzhak seem to be similar to his father’s life. In fact, the first Rashi commentary on the Parasha sets the stage for viewing Yitzhak as Avraham’s son throughout narrative. Rashi (France, d. 1105) notices the redundancy in the first pasuk stating that Yitzhak was Avraham’s son. He writes that this is there to tell us that Yitzhak’s facial features were formed to look like Avraham because, since Avraham and Sarah were barren for so many years, people might question Avraham as the father of Yitzhak. As proof that Avraham was his father, Yitzhak had to look like him. But did Yitzhak have to act just like him, too?
After the opportunity to be angry with his father after his near-death experience of the Akedah, Yitzhak might have departed from all things that Avraham represented as a person and a monotheist. Instead, Yitzhak walks in his very footsteps to perpetuate the legacy that Avraham created. Yitzhak is a simple man of few words and little action. Yet he is incredibly blessed by G-d and is regarded as one of our fathers. We tend to value creativity, innovation and progressive thinking in our modern world. New ideas and ‘thinking outside the box’ are important components of organisations and committees. Yitzhak, clearly, did not possess these qualities. But we couldn’t be a people if every person was an Avraham. We must be thoughtful enough to know when it’s the time to be an Avraham, or when acting as a Yitzhak might be more appropriate. There’s kedushah in being a link, and Yitzhak is a connector between the innovation that Avraham creates theologically and the community that his son Ya’akov builds.
Rabbi Paul Arberman.