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Parashat Vayera

I find it challenging to relate to Yitzchak

The only one of the three forefathers never to leave Israel, he doesn't do much of anything, instead, he just lives his life copying his father Avraham. My friend frames it well, she says "Avraham dug a well, and ... Yitzchak digs the exact same well." He sounds a bit nebish, like a bit of a nobody.

But then we consider the whole Akeidat Yitzchak scene. Recently I was teaching some chanichim about the episode, and I took them around the block with a series of physical challenges to emulate the long journey while explaining the story on the way. I told them how Hashem wanted to test Avraham's faith. Hashem told Avraham to take his son, his only son, and sacrifice him to Hashem. Avraham had such faith in the almighty that he awoke early in the morning took his son on a journey to the place where he would sacrifice him.

"Why did Yitzchak agree to be killed?" asked a chanich.

"He also had great faith in Hashem" I answered (lamely).

"If G-d asked me to die, I would say no," said the youngest in the group.

"Just... do the ten pushups," I said, but in my head, I thought... "fair"

Why did Yitzchak agree to go along with all this? what trait does Yitzchak possess that makes him so willing to go through with such a permanent decision?

The Chatam Sofer accredits Yitzchak as the first Jew to follow the teachings of another Jew. Yitzchak had great faith in his wise father, Avraham, and he exhibited a great ability to listen, learn and follow. He mastered the ability to see and appreciate his father's greatness, and in turn adopt a passive role in order to glean as much as he could from Avraham. He did not hear firsthand the commandment to perform the sacrifice, but he got up early with Avraham to set out on their journey nonetheless.

There is an idea that the traits of our forefathers enter the Jewish bloodstream and present themselves as the predominant traits of our nation. From Yitzchak, we receive our 'emunat chachamim', our belief in the sages. Halacha is a fine example where we exhibit trust in our oral traditions and the rabbinic decrees by building our lives around the structures these wiser, older sages provide us. Herein lies a huge challenge, sometimes we disagree with our sages, or what they say feels out of place or out of context. Yitzchak teaches us how to remove ourselves from the equation, how to truly appreciate the wisdom of another, and allow yourself to follow with faith.

So Yitzchak old buddy, I take it back, I think I like you.

Shabbat Shalom


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