The Torah portion of Toldos begins by stating:1 “These are the chronicles of Yitzchak, son of Avraham. Avraham was Yitzchak’s father.” Our Sages inform us2 that the verse repeats “Avraham was Yitzchak’s father,” to tell us that Avraham and Yitzchak were similar.

The similarity between Avraham and Yitzchak is a bit difficult to understand in light of the fact that the spiritual service of the former involved the attribute of love (“Avraham who loves Me”3) while the service of the latter was performed in awe and fear of G‑d (the “fear of Yitzchak”4).

More perplexing is the fact that with regard to Yitzchak we find two seemingly opposite aspects. While on the one hand his spiritual service was that of awe and fear, his very name denotes joy and laughter.5 His physical life as well was extremely bountiful — “He prospered mightily until he was tremendously wealthy.”6

This anomaly might be explained by the fact that although the spiritual service of Avraham and Yitzchak were entirely dissimilar — one serving out of love and the other out of fear — the difference existed only in the primary aspect of their service; they were not one-dimensional.7 Thus Avraham also served with awe, while Yitzchak’s spiritual service also contained love.

While this is indeed the case, Yitzchak’s very name is that of joy and laughter, so we must perforce say that these attributes were fundamental to his service.

How can this be?

One of the differences between love and fear is that love involves the attachment of the lover to the object of his love. Hence the individual who loves is not nullified before that which he loves; quite the contrary, he feels and is aware of himself, and senses that through his love he comes closer to his beloved.8 But a person is nullified before that of which he is in awe.

An example would be the relationship of a child and his parent, and a servant and his master. The child’s relationship to his parent is mainly one of love. This causes him to be drawn to his parent.

The relationship of a servant to his master is primarily one of awe and fear. This brings a feeling of self-abnegation and insignificance before his master, and an acceptance of his master’s yoke.

The same is true with regard to divine service. The relationship of the Jewish people to G‑d is both that of children and servants — “You are children unto the L-rd your G‑d,”9 “They are My servants.”10 Contemplating one’s closeness to G‑d (“You are our Father”11) arouses and reveals one’s love for Him; contemplating that He is our King arouses and reveals a feeling of awe and self-abnegation.

The ultimate purpose of awe, however, is not to generate a feeling of insignificance. Rather, because one feels oneself to be unimportant in and of oneself, one is better able to draw close to G‑d.

In fact, a person can come even closer to G‑d through awe than he can through love. For since love implies a continued awareness of self, and mortal man is necessarily limited, his closeness to G‑d must be limited as well. It is only when a person nullifies himself through awe that he becomes able to receive a measure of G‑dliness that transcends his human limitations.

The same is true with regard to Yitzchak. His spiritual service of awe and fear served as a prelude to the true and unlimited happiness, joy and closeness to G‑d that can best be realized through self-effacement.

Thus, although the spiritual service of Avraham and Yitzchak were externally dissimilar, at their core they were essentially the same — a coming ever closer to G‑d.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXX, pp. 103-107.