Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Yitchack Avinu – Action Man

Yitzchak appears to be a passive, weak and even pitiful character. We so how he needed protection from Yishmael’s influence, how Avraham almost offered him up as a sacrifice (Bereshit 21:9-10), how Avraham needed to find a wife for him (the only time someone did not find their own wife in the Tanach) (ibid Ch.22), his son Yaakov tricked him into giving him the Berachot (ibid 27:19-28) and even his wife Rivka twice manipulates the situation to circumvent him from making what in her opinion, was a mistake (ibid 5-12 & 46). Indeed, Yitschak is blind, not just literally, but also to reality in that he does not recognize Esav’s true character and he does not see the hostility between his two sons in the way Rivka does.

Furthermore, Yitzchak’s life seems to be a carbon copy of Avraham’s: His wife was sterile, just like Avraham’s; he said that Rivka was his sister when he entered hostile territory, just like Avraham; he made a peace treaty with Avimelech and Phichol, just like Avraham; and he even named a place Be’er Sheva, just like Avraham.

Indeed, in the only episode with which we see Yitzchak on his own, i.e. without Avraham or his sons, he is simply re-opening wells that Avraham had previously dug. They had become blocked. He struggles to unblock and eventually succeeds. He then gives them the same names that Avraham had given them.

Who was Yitzchak? Was he merely the link between Avraham and Yaakov or is there something unique about him in his own right that entitles to the title of Patriarch of the Jewish people, or was he just a poor copy of Avraham.

The answer to this question lies in the episode of the wells. Avraham took the Middle East by storm. He acquired a following in Charan, (see Rashi on ibid 12:5), the Canaanite locals recognized him as a holy man (ibid 14:20) and a “prince of God” (ibid 23:6). He defeated kings in battle (ibid Ch14) and kings came to him to make treaties (ibid 14: 22 & 21:22-34).

Avraham dug new wells and found fresh water, however, by the end of his life the wells became blocked, his ideas were no longer new and exciting. What happened to all “the souls he had acquired in Charan”, to the altars he had built and the treaties he had made?

New fads and fashions often become popular very quickly but they soon lose their staying power. Keeping them going is a difficult. That is where Yitschak comes in. He is totally different to both Avraham and Yaakov.

Unlike Avraham and Yaakov, he never leaves Canaan, he never had his name changed, he was named by God and he only had one wife. Yitzchak is the epitome of stability.

Yitzchak does not try and copy Avraham. He does not start anything new, he keeps what was already existed going and, despite the opposition to him telling him that Avraham’s ideas were old, that his wells had dried up, Yitzchak actually succeeds.

Without Yitzchak, everything that Avraham had built would have been lost and there would have been no Jewish people.

Yitzchak’s decisive actions and his attempts to gain stability gave new life to Avraham’s work and gives us good reason to stand in awe at our glorious progenitor.

Last year’s Sedra Short on Parshat Toldot, entitled: “Twins in her Womb” appears at:

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Blogger Uri Cohen said...

Good one. Thanks!

12:27 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

should that not read "he made a peace treaty with *Avimelech* and Pichol"

1:41 PM  
Blogger Moshe Abelesz said...

Thank you - you're right - i have corrected it

2:42 PM  

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