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יצחק

ואלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם אברהם הוליד את יצחק


V'eileh Toldot Yitzchak ben Avraham - Avraham ho-lid et Yitzchak.

And these are the generations of Isaac the son of Abraham - Abraham begat Isaac.

(Genesis 25:19)

Rashi and other commentators explains this seemingly difficult verse based on a Midrash. The scoffers of the day said, 'Isaac is not really Abraham's son - rather, it was Avimelech who impregnated Sarah when he took her captive'. So Hashem formed Isaac's face as nearly an exact replica of Avraham, so that anyone who would see him would say, "this is the son of Avraham".

It wasn't only in looks that Yitzchak resembled Avraham. When Eliezer looked for a wife for Yitzchak, he looked for someone with the qualities of chessed - lovingkindess - to match those found in Yitzchak. He settled in the same areas that his father had. When famine struck the land he started down to Egypt, until God told him not to leave the land. Like his father, he told Avimelech that Rivka was his sister. And he "redug the wells that were dug in the days of Avraham his father, and that the Phillistines had filled up after Avraham died" (ibid 26:18).

Yet Yitzchak was not just a carbon copy of his father. His role was to strengthen the foundation laid by Avraham. He represents what the Kabbalists describe as the second sefira, that of Gevura (strength). The Zohar tells us that Yitzchak is the archetype of middas ha-din - the attribute of strict justice.

The seminal event of Yitzchak's life was the akeida, which is known by his name - Akeidas Yitzchak. Chazal tell us that he was an active participant in the story - that he was 37 years old when it occured and was fully cognizant of what was happening; that he asked his father to "bind me tightly, that I will not reflexively move and invalidate the sacrifice". We read the story on Rosh Ha-Shana - yom ha-din, and blow the shofar, to remember the ram's horn; the ram that was brought instead of Yitzchak.

It doesn't seem very appropriate that Yitzchak's name is derived from the word for "laughter", tz'chok. In fact the word occurs perhaps more in connection with Yitzchak than in all the rest of Tanach put together.

When Avraham is told he will have a son with Sarah:
va-yipol Avraham al panav va-yitzchak
".. and Abraham fell on his face and he laughed .."
(ibid 17:17)

When Sarah hears the news:
va-titzchak Sarah b'kirba
"..and Sarah laughed inside .."
(ibid 18:12)

After he is born:
va-tomer Sarah 'tz'chok asa li Elokim - kol ha-shomaya yitzchak li'
"And Sarah said, 'God has made laughter for me; whoever hears will laughed for me'."
(ibid 21:6)

va-teyra Sarah et ben Hagar .. m'tzachek
And Sarah saw the son of Hagar .. mocking.
(ibid 21:9)

When he is in G'rar and Avimelech spies him,
v'hinei Yitzchak m'tzachek eit Rivka ishto
".. and behold! - Isaac was jesting with his wife Rebecca".
(ibid 26:8)


In his brilliant book, Patterns In Time, R' Matis Weinberg explains that laughter is our response to the incongruous, to unexpected transposition. Humor cannot be explained, he says, because humor exists in the surprise of perception. Laughter is the balance; the difference between sobbing over our heartache and rejoicing in our adventure of living. Yitzchak, whose life literally hung in the balance at the Akeida, can laugh at the incongruosness of life itself. The scales of din represent this balance between awareness and incredulity. Yitzchak is in on the ultimate cosmic joke.


The Gemara (Shabbos 89b) says that l'asid la-vo - in the future,
Hashem will say to Avraham, 'Your children sinned'
He (Avraham) will say, 'They should be obliterated for the sake of Kiddush Hashem'.
Hashem: I will ask Ya'akov, who had great pain raising children - perhaps he will pray for them!
Hashem will say to Ya'akov, 'Your children sinned'
He (Ya'akov) will say, 'They should be obliterated for the sake of Kiddush Hashem'
Hashem: The elder [Av] lacks reasoning, the younger lacks [good] counsel - I will ask Yitzchak.
Hashem will say to Yitzchak, 'Your children sinned'
Yitzchak will say: Did my children sin - aren't they also Your children?! When Yisrael put Na'aseh before Nishma [at Har Sinai], didn't You call them "beni vechori" my firstborn son - why do you call them my sons now?! Further, how much could they have sinned? Most people live only 70 years - deduct the first 20, for which You (the Heavenly Court) do not punish; take away half of the remaining 50 for they are at night, only 25 years remain. Half the daytime is occupied with prayer, eating, and the bathroom - only 12 and a half years remain. If You will bear their sin alone, good - if You prefer, each of us will bear half; if You do not agree to this, I will bear all of it - I offered my life for You [at the Akedah]!
Yisrael will then say "ki ata Avinu" - you are our true father.
Yitzchak will tell them to direct their praise to Hashem, and point out that Hashem is before their eyes.


At that time, we will see the fulfillment of the Psalm we sing before Grace after Meals on Shabbat and Yom Tov:
אז ימלא שחוק פינו ולשוננו רינה

az yimalei s'chok pinu u-l'shoneinu rina

"Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with songs of glad praise."

(Psalms 126:2)

May we merit to see it speedily, in our time.

Posted by joem on Nov 29, 2006 3:00 am

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