Don’t Judge A Person By the text by Dov Rossman


Out of the three Avot, the Torah mentions Yitzchak the least, and consequently we know relatively little about his life.  Even in the few places where events in Yitzchak’s life are detailed, he is usually not the main character.  For example, the story of the Akeida is told in reference to the greatness of Avraham Avinu and not of Yitzchak.

One event involving Yitzchak that the Torah does mention is in Parshat Toldot when Yitzchak reopens the wells which Avraham dug.  But this event does not tell us much about Yitzchak’s personality, and its relevance, at first glance, is questionable.  However, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soleveitchik z”l, states that the amount of text dedicated to Yitzchak should not reflect on his greatness, but instead should be as an indication of his exclusive devotion to Hashem.

Kabbalah connects each of the Avot’s personalities to an attribute of Hashem.  Avraham represents Chessed, Yitzchak represents Gevura, and Yaakov represents Emet.  The Rav explains that Avraham’s trait of kindness is expressed at length because it involves moving away from one’s self to help others.  Yitzchak’s trait, however, is the opposite; it is one’s retreat towards Hashem.  Yitzchak remained in connection with Hashem for a majority of his life because much of his life was private with Hashem.  Thus, the Torah tells us little about him.  Yitzchak even waits until after the Akeida to get married, as up until that point he belonged exclusively to Hashem.  When he was lying on the Mizbeiach as a Korban to Hashem, he was at the peek of his relationship with Hashem.  Then, once he had reached the highest level of his connection with Hashem, he was able to move outward while still retaining his Gevurah along with an additional trait of Chessed, which he learned from his father.

Even though it seems irrelevant to the reader, and in doing so the Torah gives no praise to Yitzchak, the Torah tell us about Yitzchak reopening the wells that his father had dug. The significance of the event becomes clearer when viewing the entire life of Yitzchak Avinu.  After the Plishtim closed Avraham’s wells, not only did Yitzchak reopen them, but he gave them their original names as well.  This shows the significant transition of Yitzchak becoming a more public person, and continuing in the ways of his father.

In addition to reopening the wells, Yitzchak dug three new wells.  The Plishtim objected to the construction of the first two wells, but not of the third.  The Ramban states that these three wells can be compared to the three Batei Hamikdash.  The first two were destroyed because of the objection of the other nations, but the third will be built with no objection, thus causing our borders to expand.  Yitzchak not only went from being private to reaching out to a spouse, but he gave hope for hundreds of generations to come.

-Adapted from an article written by Rabbi Shalom Baum in Torah Insights

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