Rabbi Asher Altshul
Former Shaliach in Manhattan (1997-98), certified tour guide and teacher in Yeshivat Orayta, Jerusalem
One of the first trials of Avraham was when he first entered the land. Drought and famine, forced him and his household to descend to Egypt. Yaakov fled from Esau to Haran and lived there for many years.
Yitzchak was different. When in our parsha drought and famine again plagued the region, Yitzchak, following the path of Avraham, prepared for the trip down to Egypt and proceeded to Gerar. There, Hashem appeared and made the following request:
”אל תרד מצרימה. שכן בארץ אשר אומר אליך. גור בארץ הזאת ואהיה אמך כי לך ולזרעך את כל הארצות האלה…“
“Do not descend to Egypt; Live in the land that I have designated for you. Dwell in this land and I will be with you, for I have given this land to you and to your progeny…” (26:2-3)
Why was it so important that Yitzchak remain in the Land? And if this was so important why did both Avraham and Yaakov leave the land, seemingly without issue?
Rashi answers somewhat enigmatically: (Yitzchak) was an “Olah Temimah” an “unblemished sacrifice” and thus forbidden to exit the holy area, Chuz La’aretz was not the place for him.
This approach focuses on the unique personal nature of Yitzchak. The spiritual advantage in Israel in not just quantitative. The nature of the land is entirely different. Yitzchak was told that he was to preserve this spiritual state.
Judaism realizes that attaining and maintaining spirituality, while a worthy goal is not available to everyone. Avaraham represents those that have a limited upbringing; he was a convert and a Baal Teshuva. Yaakov, represents those that have challenges later in life and are forced, due to external pressure, to leave the lofty world. The message is clear, the path and covenant of Hashem applies to both of them, despite the difficulty.
Yitzchak however represents the ideal. The ideal is achievable. It may not be for everyone but with Yitzchak we are shown that it is a possibility and that working toward it is not futile.
Seforno alludes to an additional approach. “The reason that I have directed you to dwell in the land and with this I will bestow good upon you is that I have already sworn to Avraham that I will give him and his children the land. Therefore when you live in the land…you will demonstrate the ownership of the land and transmit this to your children. (Seforno 26:3)
Were Yitzchak to leave the country it would damage the nature of the oath. In his persistence to stay in the land, even with the difficulties he demonstrated the nature of ownership and responsibility that comes with the inheritance.
Yaakov is forced to leave, this further proves that the oath and the covenant, now secure, can endure even if forced to temporarily leave due to hardship.
Hashem made an oath to the forefathers that the land of Canaan would be theirs. On a number of occasions it is repeated that the Brit was made with Avraham,Yitzchak and Yaakov. The oath was to each one individually and to their children as a whole.
Avraham was the Oleh Chadash; he received the land as a gift and appreciated it as a beloved treasure. He knew clearly what it meant not to have his own land and leaving temporarily was not a threat. The oath to Yaakov proves that the covenant is eternal and not dependent on his location. Yitzchak, as we learn in this parsha, secures the Chazakah in the land, his presence actuates the oath and provides us with an ideal model for the future.