D’var Torah: Parashat Toldot
In this week’s D’var Torah the Chief Rabbi explains why Yitzchak is the embodiment of continuity and stability.
‘The son of his father and the father of his son.’
Is this the best we can say about our patriarch Yitzchak? In Parashat Toldot we’re told about the life and times of Yitzchak. His father Avraham was such a towering figure, that the Hittites said of him: ‘Nasi Elokim Atah Betocheinu – You’re a prince of God in our midst’ and his son Yaakov – his name Yisrael, continues to live on in our midst.
Is this the best we can say about our patriarch Yitzchak?
But what can we say about Yitzchak himself? I believe that Yitzchak is probably the most suitable role model for our times. And why do I say that? You see, Avram became Avraham, Yaakov became Yisrael but Yitzchak was born Yitzchak and he died Yitzchak – no change of name whatsoever. Indeed, his name is in the future tense – Yitzchak – he will laugh, indicating that from him will flow a happy future.
Yitzchak was married to the one and only Rivkah but Avraham had more than one wife as did Yaakov. Avraham was born in Mesopotamia, made Aliyah, left for Egypt in a time of famine and then came back to Eretz Canaan. Yaakov left the Holy Land for Mesopotamia and then in his later life went to Egypt where he died. Yitzchak, however, was born in the Holy Land and died in the Holy Land – he never set foot from there.
Yitzchak is the symbol of continuity, a strong link in an ongoing chain
In our tradition Yitzchak’s virtue is called gevurah – strength because he had the strength of character which enabled him to be a rock of stability and dependability. Yitzchak is the symbol of continuity, a strong link in an ongoing chain and this is reflected in our davening. According to tradition, Avraham started the custom of davening shacharit, Yaakov of davening maariv in the evening and Yitzchak introduced the idea of davening mincha in the afternoon. The mincha service is the link in this ongoing chain of commitment and spirituality which joins the morning with the evening and which provides that strong continuity.
Therefore, when it comes to our aspirations and dreams for our children many of us as parents would love to have an Avraham or Yaakov but deep down, more than anything, we’d like to have a Yitzchak – children who please God, who will be the children of their parents and the parents of their children and who will guarantee our own line within the future of the Jewish people.