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Three Aspects of Isaac’s Life

Three Aspects of Isaac’s Life

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Studying the life of our forefathers, one should follow the principal laid down by Ramban, who quotes the sages: “Everything that happened to our forefathers is a sign for the sons. All the details of the life of our forefathers contain the prediction of the future.”

Who Was Isaac?

Out of all the forefathers Isaac was, in a sense, the most distant from the material world. In his biography we won’t find, to the same degree as we do with Abraham and Jacob, the wars conflicts and strenuous situations – all so abundant in the stories of Abraham and Jacob.

Isaac also had tremendous force of spirit. He did the greatest of deeds, when he agreed to give that what is most precious to a human, namely his life itself, to the Almighty. When Isaac and Abraham were going up to Mount Moriah, Isaac understood that he is to be sacrificed, yet he never exhibited any sign of fear and kept walking with his father wholeheartedly. The other aspect of greatness of this act is that Isaac represents a role model for subsequent generations of respect and subservience to his father Abraham, fulfilling the commandment, “respect thy father and thy mother.”

The Wells

Reading the description of Isaac`s life we often come across references to wells. The Torah relates how Eliezer chose Rivka, Isaac’s wife, near a well. When Rivkah was riding to meet Isaac, Isaac was returning for the Lahai-Roi well. In the land of Philistines “and again he dug the wells, which were dug in in the days of his father Abraham, and which were filled up by the Philistines after Abrahams death. And he gave them the same names as his father had done.” Isaac also dug two more wells in the land of Philistines, which brought about arguments and disagreements, which is why he named the place Strife and Slander. After this Isaac returned to the Holy Land and dug two wells there which were called Space and Oath.

Physically a well is a channel by which the life-force, namely water, comes into the world. Also a well is a channel which was opened by the righteous and which connected our physical world of Asiyah with the higher spiritual worlds, through which the Godly spiritual substance enters our world. As was written by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi: “All higher worlds and realities were only created to serve our world in the realization of its goal.”

The implication of Isaac’s digging is that only in the Holy Land and not in the land of pagans can the righteous open spacious channels for connecting with the spiritual worlds which will bring an abundance of good into our world.

Jacob`s Deeds

Ramban writes: “It is likely that Rivkah never told Isaac the prophecy that she received from G‑d, “that the older will serve the younger,” and in the beginning she didn’t tell him out of politeness and modesty.”

The Torah doesn’t state directly that Jacob knew about the prophecy, however he knew for sure that if he tells his father that his favorite son Esau had sold his birthright for a lentil stew and thus would be denied their fathers blessing, it would break Isaac’s heart. Like his father, Jacob was a very righteous man and always adhered to the commandment “respect thy father and thy mother.” Because of this he decided to choose the lesser of the two evils and compromise the truth, and took upon himself the risk of being damned by his father, instead of breaking his heart.

The lesson: that is how Isaac was rewarded for his adherence to the same commandment. Jacob was rewarded with the blessing, which he got from Isaac. However for the white lie, he was later punished by the “eye for and eye” principle; he was subsequently lied to by Lavan as well as his own children.

The author would like to express his feelings of deep gratitude to Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar for his invaluable guidance, comments and help.

​Eduard Shyfrin is a Jewish professor and businessman who resides in Russia. Born in 1960, Shyfrin is involved ​in Torah study and is an active member of the local Jewish community.
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