This week we learn of the birth of the second of our forefathers, Yitzchak. I have always had a problem with Yitzchak being one of our forefathers. What great acts did he do to make him one of the top three? Avraham was tested with ten trials of great difficulty and withstood them all. Yaakov went through difficult suffering from Esav, Lavan, and his children (he thought Yosef was dead and lived through the terrible incident with Dina) but he always trusted in G-d. What great thing did Yitzchak do? So everyone points to the Akeidah, but was this event really enough to make him one of our forefathers? As pointed out in Divrei Simcha on Lech Lecha 5768 (Pinocchio and the Real American Hero), it is much easier to die sanctifying G-d’s name than to live sanctifying G-d’s name. It is certainly a great level for a person to be able to die to sanctify G-d’s name, but it only takes a few seconds. This is a very simple test for “a forefather” for us to declare him to be one of the greatest. Remember, Avraham’s FIRST test was about dying to sanctify G-d’s name. So does Yitzchak really deserve to be one of our forefathers?
A few years ago, I found the answer in a sefer by the Moshgiach (spiritual advisor) of Lakewood, Rav Matisyahu Salomon, shlita. The Moshgiach shows that Yitzchak was the pillar of the Oral Law and this is the thing that made him great. Yitzchak perfectly followed in his rebbe’s footsteps and did everything that his rebbe did (his rebbe is, of course, Avraham). If you look at the events that discuss Yitzchak, you will see that he did everything that his father did. There was a famine during Avraham’s time so he went to Egypt. There was a famine during Yitzchak’s time also so he wanted to go to Egypt to follow in his father’s footsteps (as Rashi says on Bereshis 26:2. Yitzchak did not go to Egypt though because he never left Eretz Yisrael.) There was an argument about wells during Yitzchak’s time. There is a mystical meaning to these wells, but the Torah simply explains that Yitzchak wanted these wells because they were his father’s, Avraham’s wells. Everything Yitzchak did, he followed what his father did. He began the passing of the oral tradition from one generation to the next. The ultimate example of Yitzchak following his father is the end of this week’s parsha with the Akeidah. Avraham received prophecy from Hashem that he was to slaughter Yitzchak, but Yitzchak did not receive this message because he was not on the level of prophecy. Avraham tells Yitzchak that he is going to slaughter him and Yitzchak follows his father without hesitation. Yitzchak could have easily said “this is your test, not mine. Go find someone else to kill. If G-d wants me dead, let G-d speak directly to me,” but he did not. Yitzchak followed everything his father told him because his father was his rebbe.
Still wondering what made Yitzchak so great? Yitzchak does not have many scenes in the Torah, but the scenes he does have teach to us how great of a person he was. Everyone learns about all of the great acts Avraham and Yaakov performed, but Yitzchak seems not to get as much attention. Yitzchak’s role, though, was extremely important in Judaism – to teach us how to follow the Oral Law.
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