By Rabbi Heshy Grossman
Of all the Avos, the life of Yitzchak remains an enigma.
Yitzchak is silent.
Even at the great moments of his life, his role is never clearly stated.
Silently, he walks to the Akeida.
Unknowingly, he watches in silence as his blessing is manipulated by his
wife and son, while the future of Klal Yisrael is snatched from Eisav's hands.
Yitzchak has learned his lesson. His brother Yishmael was banished from
Avraham's home for being Mitzachek, a laughter of derision and scorn.
Yet - Yitzchak's very name is laughter.
Yitzchak represents those things in life that are not easily understood.
He will laugh - but not now.
His shining moment - Akeidas Yitzchak.
Why is it the Akeida, the binding of Yitzchak, that is highlighted? Would
not Hakravas Yitzchak, or Hala'as Yitzchak be a more appropriate term? Was
it the binding at the altar that was central to this great event?
The Akeida was not a mere moment in time. It was more than an act of
Yitzchak sacrificed the balance of his life.
Let us explain.
Each of the Avos exemplify particular characteristics that reflect the
essence of G-d's revelation. While Avraham is the manifestation of Chesed,
Yitzchak brings to earth the G-dly trait called Din.
G-d directs the world as a heavenly king, in precise conjunction with His
preordained will. The slightest digression activates a Heavenly response
that sets the world aright. This is pure justice, a Din that often demands
punishment and retribution.
The man who actualizes this dimension of existence in his daily life
exhibits a sense of everlasting obligation, forever committed to the
requirements of G-d's law. He recognizes that G-d's word must be, and he
identifies himself with the inflexible nature of His binding decree.
As secular jurists have noted, the very term 'obligation' is an invention
of the religious mind. Common law knows only of enforceable rights, and by
what force can man be obliged?
Yitzchak made obligation his life.
Understanding completely that nothing can be but the will of G-d, he ties
himself to His word. From the moment of the Akeida and on, Yitzchak will
not make a move of his own, living a life on the altar.
Yes: it is the act of binding that symbolizes the magnitude of Yitzchak's
sacrifice, surrendering his will to a higher authority.
He stands before the King - eternally.
In the presence of the king, servants dare not make an unmeasured move, for
royal functions are executed with precision and exactitude.
This is Yitzchak, a life of Din.
"And the youths matured, Eisav's was a man who knew how to hunt, a man of the
field...." (Breishis 25:27)
"....Ish Batel - an idling man..." (Rashi, ad. loc.)
Eisav's whiles his life away, no rules, and no obligations, searching for the
nearest bowl of beans.
How does Yitzchak beget an Eisav's, the evil son who lives by the sword?
The answer is this: Eisav's shares his father's affinity for Din, but he takes
it in the wrong direction.
Yitzchak knows that whatever G-d wills must be.
Eisav's thinks that since he is, therefore he must be.
He knows of obligation, only it is the world who is obliged to him.
G-d is the seat of Din, and Eisav's puts himself on His throne. It follows
then, that years later, it is the descendants of Eisav's, heirs of the Roman
empire, who turn man into God.
How does this idea square with the description of Eisav's as an Ish Batel?
The Vilna Gaon describes the unnatural pull of the inclination towards Bittul.
"....they desire to speak Devarim Betailim. Although there is no worldly
pleasure in it, still, it is particularly sweet ..... their spirit will not
quiet or rest until they speak words of frivolity, and from this they have
pleasure...." (Commentary to Mishlei,1:22-3)
What is the nature of this Yetzer Hara, the desire to idle one's time?
When people gather for idle conversation, the first topic of discussion is
the solution of life's problems. Whether it be President Clinton's nuclear
disarmament policy, or the latest flood tolls in rural India, talk shows
are filled with Joes from Des Moines who share their thoughts with the world.
The urge to gossip is quite similar. When one finds a particular person
truly disturbing, he finds no rest until he can sit in a quiet circle of
friends, unload his pain and anger, and slice his foe to pieces with a few
Why is Lashon Hara so satisfying?
In person, I may feel powerless and humiliated, but, at least here, in this
room, I have killed him.
Speech is a form of control, a tool of power. The words may be idle, but
they define one's world.
It is Eisav's's unbridled pursuit of power that is the impetus for idle
I may have no interest in the political unrest in Fiji, or in man's quest
to find live worms on Mars, but an hour spent reading the New York Times
provides the illusion that all of life is in my hands.
Twenty-two minutes and we'll give you the world.
The Torah has words of a different sort.
Boruch SheAmar V'Haya HaOlam.
The Torah obligates.
The word of G-d suffers no denials, His will binding all the world in
Eisav's, on the other hand, speaks of his own world, an imaginary existence in
which he is obligated only to satisfy his fancy.
He idles away his time, exercising his right to do as he pleases.
In the enlightened world view of modern society, man is prodded to demand
his rights, resisting any infringement on his personal liberty.
Why is there never a protest rally in support of fulfilling one's obligations?
At a time when man is king, his idle words silence the sound of G-d's
creation, filling the air with blaring laughter, the call of those who know
And the righteous man, ever mindful of his duties, suffers silently the
taunting jeers of the fool.
"Ish Ba'ar Lo Yaida, U'Ksil Lo Yavin Es Zos - A boor cannot know, nor can a
fool understand this:...." (Tehillim 92:7)
The Ksil sees the flowering of a world intoxicated by its own success,
mindful only of its crusade for fame and fortune. Oblivious to the call of
responsibility, he ridicules the pitiful few who faithfully heed His word.
".....Bifroach Reshaim Kemo Esev, VaYatzitzu Kol Poalei Aven - LeHishamdam
"....when the wicked bloom like grass, and all evildoers blossom - it is to
destroy them for eternity."
Eisav's sees things as they are, selling his soul for a sweet-tasting moment.
The wise man sees the future.
Rooted to one spot, he knows that true success is the measure of a tree
that's solidly planted.
Yitzchak too will laugh - and he will laugh best.
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 1999 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and Project