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Posted on November 19, 2020 (5781) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

There are the offspring of Yitzchok the son of Avraham: Avraham begot Yitzchok[2]

A midrash[3] applies a verse in Mishlei to our pasuk: “The father of a righteous child greatly rejoices; a man who fathers a wise son finds happiness in him.”[4] What is the connection?

Elsewhere,[5] Rashi tells us that the most important “offspring” of the righteous are their good deeds. Now, there is no doubt that it is meritorious to gladden the heart of a tzadik. Nothing can make him happier than watching his progeny continue in the ways of his forebears, and living a life fully committed to Hashem and His Torah. Putting it together, we find that we can add the joy he brought to his father Avraham to the list of Yitzchok’s prodigious accomplishments. People pointed to Yitzchok and exclaimed, “Look at the wonderful son that was born to Avraham.” In other words, when we speak about Yitzchok’s “offspring,” i.e. his maasim tovim, we need to say, “Avraham begot Yitzchok.” The very fact that Yitzchok – who garnered so much acclaim and recognition – was born to Avraham and gave him immeasurable nachas, was one of those maasim tovim.

The Gift That Keeps Giving

The fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field with Hashem blessed. May G-d [Elokim] give you of the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth.[6]

Rashi: “Give you” – Give, and continue to give

Chazal[7] teach, “One who comes to purify himself, [from Heaven] they assist him.” The assistance is the strength and courage to go further. Through both spiritual and material tools, they make it easier for the would-be penitent to better serve Hashem. Now, in the two lines that we are looking at, we see that Yitzchok first employs the Name Havaya, or midas ha-rachamim. When a person begins to draw closer to Him, G-d first responds with midas ha-rachamim. That person cannot yet carry his own weight. He does not yet merit the blessings that he seeks through din. He simply has not lived that way in the past. He is hoping to, but cannot lay claim to accomplishments that he has not yet amassed.

This, however, is an imperfect state of affairs. It is not a mark of distinction to be sustained through charity alone, without having earned his keep. Therefore, Yaakov later stresses “If Elokim will be with me, will guard me…and give me bread to eat and clothes to wear.” [8] He invokes Elokim in the sense of midas ha-din, stating that he aspires to deserve those benefits in din, rather than as an unearned handout.

This is the habit of tzadikim. In their younger years, they accept assistance for their avodah through midas ha-rachamim. As that avodah develops and matures, they arrive at a point where they can satisfy the requirements of din without recourse to rachamim alone. (This also sheds light on Chazal’s teaching that the greater a person is, the stronger is his yetzer hora.[9] As he grows in spiritual attainment, so does his evil inclination, which in turn increases the reward that he is able to claim – in din – for resisting it.)

This was also part of Yitzchok’s intention in his blessing, “See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field that Hashem blessed.”[10] He prays that Yaakov (and, by implication, his descendants) should be treated by Hashem as a field, which requires nurturing and toil to prepare it to fulfill its potential. Only after that “May Elokim give you of the dew of the heavens.” As the midrash says, may He give and continue giving, which we now understand to mean, may He give with rachamim, and continue to give later in din.

  1. Based on Chidushei R. Yosef Nechemia (Kornitzer) (1880-1933)
  2. Bereishis 25:19
  3. Bereishis Rabbah 63:1
  4. Mishlei 23:24
  5. Rashi Bereishis 6:9
  6. Bereishis 27:27-28
  7. Shabbos 104a
  8. Bereishis 28:20
  9. Sukkah 52a
  10. Bereishis 27:27