Avraham was 100 years old when Yitzchak was born. Yitzchak was 60 years
old when Yakov was born. Avraham was 175 years old when he died; Yitzchak
was 180 years old when he died; and Yakov was 147 years old when he died.
Yitzchak lived for 100 years after the death of his father Avraham. Yakov
lived for 27 years after the death of his father Yitzchak.
Yitzchak lived through Yakov's 36-year absence. Yitzchak lived through the
incident of Dina’s abduction. Yitzchak was 168 when the Brothers sold
Yoseph into slavery. Of the 22 years that Yoseph was away from his family
Yitzchak was alive for 12 of them.
After Yitzchak’s married Rivkah the Torah’s shifted it’s focus away from
Avraham. (Avraham was 140 years old at that time.) Except for the final
notes on Avraham’s marriage to Keturah, his death, and his burial, the
Torah closed the book on that extraordinary figure. Avraham was the man
who altered the destiny of his world and brought blessing and the
potential for redemption to our universe. His life was truly a singular
moment in human history.
Concurrent with the story of Avraham we were introduced to the relatively
enigmatic Yitzchak. His miraculous birth, Akeidah (binding), marriage to
Rivkah, fatherhood, limited but profound interaction with the Plishtim,
and final blessings to Yakov and Eisav are the basic events in the
recorded life of Yitzchak. Note that Yitzchak was 123 at the time of the
blessings and would live for another 58 years.
Starting with this week and for the remainder of Sefer Bereshis, the
events of Yakov’s life and the lives of his sons take center stage.
A contrast of the Avos and the years that their lives overlapped with each
other suggests a profound insight into Yitzchak and the manner of his
relationship with G-d. Avraham lived for 75 years of Yitzchak’s life.
Until the Akeidah when Yitzchak was 37 years old, Avraham was Yitzchak’s
primary teacher. Following the Akeidah and Sarah’s death, Yitzchak left
his parent’s home and entered the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. He remained
there for 3 years until he married Rivkah. He was 40 years old.
Something happened at the Akeidah. Some change or realization occurred
which necessitated Yitzchak’s moving on to the academy of his great
grandfathers’. What happened? Why wasn’t it sufficient for Yitzchak to
continue studying with his father for the remaining 38 years of Avraham’s
life? Why did the Torah write Avraham out of the script after Yitzchak’s
marriage to Rivkah? Didn’t Yitzchak continue to study with his father
after his three years in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever?
Last week’s Parsha began with Yitzchak and Rivkah praying for children and
the unusual nature of Rivkah’s pregnancy. However, as soon as Yakov and
Eisav were born the Torah relates the incident of Yakov purchasing the
first-born birth right from Eisav. The focus shifted away from Yitzchak
and Rivkah to the emerging differences between Yakov and Eisav. Then, the
Torah returned to the story of Yitzchak’s dealings with the local
Plishtim, his successes as a farmer and his conflicts over wells and water
rights. Once resolved, the final recorded scene with Yitzchak and Rivkah
was the conspiracy and delivery of the blessings to Yakov and Eisav. As
mentioned before, Yitzchak was 123 at that juncture in history. As we
calculated earlier, Yitzchak was present in the lives and events of his
grandchildren till 10 years before the family descended to Egypt. Why
wasn’t he mentioned again?
Yitzchak was the only human G-d ever chose to be a Korban (offering). As
such, he attained a level of perfection bordering on the impossible.
However, his perfection was physical, not spiritual. Spiritual perfection
is impossible. As long as there is life to be lived there is perfection to
be attained. As a human, Yitzchak had overcome the assumed and normal
urges of the material world. He was truly without blemish.
The verse states, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” It is
far more difficult to accomplish discipline, purpose, and sanctity when
young than it is to accomplish when older. An older individual has usually
lived and lost, tried and failed, and hopefully learned and grown.
Experience is a great teacher of value and purpose and time is more
precious the more it passes. However, the young crave experience and fear
missing out on life. They are foolish enough to ignore consequence and
lack the courage to overcome peer pressure and fear. Therefore, it is
unusual to find a person who “Remembered His Creator in the days of his
youth.” It is the old and the “less young” who first begin to remember
My Father-in-law Zt’l (Rabbi Chaim Shapiro) was an unusual person who
remained unknown despite his fame and recognition. His stories, speeches,
and books, related a story whose underlying message was “Have Bitachon.
Trust G-d. Believe in G-d. G-d did miracles and continues to do miracles.”
However, most people do not take the time to look deeper into the stories
of his life. If they did so they would find a young man whose
determination to remain Kadosh, holy and sanctified, was greater than his
fear of death.
In his later years my Father-in Law Zt’l gained a reputation for giving
Berachos (blessings) that would be realized. Whether marriages, children,
health, or income, his Tefilos (prayers) were accepted in heaven and
changes would often take place, seemingly miraculously. Because he was a
very unassuming individual, I only began to understand and appreciate that
side of him once he had passed away. I wondered why it is that some people
are given the gift of Berachos (giving blessings to others) while others,
even much greater scholars and leaders, are not. I believe that to be
a “Bracha Giver” one must be holy. One must be connected to G-d on a level
that expresses a mutual trust in each other. The individual must fully
believe and trust in G-d’s ability and goodness, regardless of the
outcome, while G-d trusts the individual to live their lives with complete
Emunah (faith) and Bitachon (trust), even to the extent of giving up their
lives. However, it must start when they are young. They must prove
themselves when the going is the hardest.
The generation of my Father-in-law lived when the going was hardest. For
some, like him, they went one step further. They proved to G-d that they
had the discipline and determination to remain holy even n the days of
their youth. Despite all that was happening to them, they “always
remembered their Creator.”
Yitzchak was such a person. By the time he was 37, Yitzchak had proven his
courage, determination, and strength in pursuing holiness and sanctity. It
was specifically in the relative open environment of Avraham and Sarah’s
home that he proved himself. Had he closeted himself behind the walls of
Yeshivas Shem and Ever his purity would have remained untested. However,
with the help of Sarah and Avraham he realized his inner greatness and
attained the level of “Remembering his Creator in the days of his youth.”
Post Akeidah, Yitzchak was able to enter his great grandfather’s academy
because he had already proven himself worthy of being spiritual heir to
Avraham. However, he could only remain there until it was time to marry
and have children. The Jewish nation could not be born in isolation. They
had to be raised with the challenges and attractions of assimilation and
gain the strength to remain holy and pure. Otherwise, they could not be
the role models of sanctity and holiness in the real world of nations, and
Yitzchak existed on a level of trust that allowed him to see everything as
good. Whether the conflict between his sons, Yakov’s 36 year absence,
Dina’s abduction, and Yoseph’s enslavement, Yitzchak existed above the
time frame and perceived the world as the pure manifestation of G-d’s
will. So it was when he was young and so it was as he felt the cold blade
of his father’s knife pressed against his throat. He was able to transcend
fear and attain serenity. He transcended the physical and attained
Subsequently, Yitzchak could never leave the land of Canaan because no
other land could sustain his level of holiness. At the same time, he
could not take an active role in the ongoing events of his children. No
one can grant Emunah (faith) and Bitachon (trust) to anyone else. Yitzchak
could not tell Yakov that Yoseph was alive. Yitzchak could not tell Yakov
and the brothers that Dinah’s abduction would somehow come full circle and
the child sired by Shechem would one day marry Yoseph. Yitzchak could not
tell Yakov that his exile would last 36 years and during that time he
(Yitzchak) would not fear even one second for the well being of his son
(Yakov). Every person must on their own experience the challenges of life
and find their own level of Emunah and Bitachon. Each person must find the
courage and determination to remain holy or to attain holiness. No one can
do it for someone else. Therefore, Yitzchak is removed from the script
after he becomes the Bracha Giver.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.