Re: The Sacrifice of Isaac

Isaac A Zlochower (
Sun, 1 Dec 1996 14:26:32 -0800

Joseph Botbol (TF 2:90) has emphasized the central role of the total faith
of Isaac (Yitzchok) in aquiescing to his father's actions. Whether that
faith was in Avraham as a prophet and loving father, or in a benificent G-D
who was only testing them, doesn't alter the enormous accomplishment of a
young man who had not previously been tested by G-D. This may well have
been the main point of the Akedah, to establish Yitzchok as the fitting
successor of his father as the founder of the Jewish people.

There is another aspect to this test of Yitzchok. He had been raised by
his protective parents in relative isolation from the world. His
half-brother Ishmael was banished from home once he showed the potential
for being a bad influence on his younger brother. Yitzchok was raised to
be totally dedicated to G-D, and isolation from the corrupting influence of
the environment was thought to be needed to accomplish that degree of
personal perfection. G-D may have thought otherwise, for the command to
Avraham was to take Yitzchok and offer him as a burnt sacrafice (Olah); as
if to say, you have been striving for all the years of his life to dedicate
him entirely to G-D, now I am going to give you the chance to complete your
work with one act. No longer will there be a question of how Yitzchok will
develop after the death of his parents; he will in one final, supreme act
achieve what a lifetime of effort could not guarantee. Perhaps this
thought had entered the minds of Avraham and Yitzchok at the Akedah, and
they were not unhappy at the thought. Yet, of course, G-D had no intention
of letting them complete their intentions. It was only a challenge. Now
that they fully met the challenge and Yitzchok had amply demonstrated his
total devotion to G-D and to his father, what more was there for him to do?
Now Avraham understood that Yitzchok must lead his own life, and be
independent of his father. So he made the arrangements for a suitable
marriage for his son.

Indeed, Yitzchok did develop into a quite different personality. Avraham's
great virtue was his total dedication to G-D, which made all other loves
and loyalties secondary in importance. But his concern for others, and the
desire to instill faith in a Creator was broad and deep. For Yitzchok,
concern for others was lessened, but love of family was more unstitinting.
Even his unruly son, Esav (Esau) basked in his Yitzchok's love and
attention. His worthy son, Yaakov (Jacob), absorbed this characteristic of
Yitzchok and he did not reject his errant sons, Reuven, Shimon, and Levi
when they acted shamefully or against his wishes. He succeeded, however,
where his father didn't, in keeping the family intact as the destined
children of Israel.

Yitzchok Zlochower