Rabbi Yedidya Noman
Rosh Kollel (Montreal, 2016-19)
Passing On The Torch
וַיָּ֨שָׁב יִצְחָ֜ק וַיַּחְפֹּ֣ר׀ אֶת־בְּאֵרֹ֣ת הַמַּ֗יִם אֲשֶׁ֤ר חָֽפְרוּ֙ בִּימֵי֙ אַבְרָהָ֣ם אָבִ֔יו… וַיִּקְרָ֤א לָהֶן֙ שֵׁמ֔וֹת כַּשֵּׁמֹ֕ת אֲשֶׁר־קָרָ֥א לָהֶ֖ן אָבִֽיו:
In the book of the famous prophet Yesha’ayahu we can find a very important pasuk: ‘You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock you were hewn from, To the quarry you were dug from’. In the Gemara (Yevamot 64, b) we are told that this pasuk refers specifically to our Avot & Imahot, meaning that if we truly want to understand who we are and what defines us we should look upon our great and righteous ancestors. Learning about them can bring us to their ways and values so hopefully we will follow their great footsteps. This Parasha we have the privilege to meet Yitzchak Avinu and when reading through this Parasha we can sense a very important attribute.
Yitzchak Avinu wasn’t a big revolutionary or inventor. Yitzchak Avinu had the ability to carry on what he inherited from his father and pass on the old message to the next generations. As written in the pasuk above- he didn’t even dig new wells. The wells he fought for and used were the ones his father has already found and developed. Yitzchak didn’t look for new just because it’s new and he was very happy relying on the old and beloved. We might even say that he deliberately held on to those wells to teach the importance of keeping the tradition and the old even in technical and materialistic issues.
We can connect his ability to do so to the Mida of Din (judgement) which Chazal attach to him. Being able to perform Midat Hadin means to lead your life exactly by the book. Leading a life where everything is always in place and changes don’t happen so often. Yitzchak showed the way to stick to Hashem’s will and find interest and happiness in this demanding structure.
Yitzchak followed his father’s footsteps in love and passion and felt comfortable in the position of stepping in to his father’s gigantic shoes.
Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook (in his famous book of Sichot) teaches that Yitzchak’s role was crucial in the development of our nation. Avraham Avinu was full of love and Chessed, but the world also needs stability and fear in it. In order to build a strong nation we must have the knowledge how to hang on inherited values and pass them on continuously and not only to reconfigure our ideas all the time.
In many ways we should connect our nation’s ability to survive the past 2000 years of Galut to this attribute of Yitzchak. Even when being spread in all 4 corners of the globe we have managed to keep our special and unique identity, holding the past in love and passing it on to the next generation.
Yitzchak Avinu was the one who taught us how to fight for the values we already have and how to pass on tradition. So even though it might seem to be that his life was only a bridge to the life of his known son Yaakov we should not overlook him. The ability to sometimes do no more than stick with what you have is important and should be acknowledged as a very powerful and needed skill.