On the second day of Rosh Hashana we read the episode of עקידת יצחק and conclude the ברכה of זכרונות with the request “ועקידת יצחק לזרעו היום ברחמים תזכור.” Generally we perceive the עקידה as the episode that will serve as a זכות on our behalf. The fact that יצחק was prepared to ascend the מזבח will hopefully be reckoned by Hashem as a merit for us when He makes His final decision about each and every one of us.
It is conceivable, however, that the Akeida presents us with an enormous challenge. We recite during Selichot the Pasuk found in Sefer Devarim, ימל ה' אלוקיך את לבבך ואת לבב זרעך. Apparently we are to make an attempt at תשובה ourselves and on behalf of our children. We are all familiar with the episode recorded in פרשת ויגש highlighting how יהודה does תשובה, recognizing his responsibility for his brother בנימין whereas years earlier he failed to adequately defend his brother יוסף. As he speaks to יוסף Yehuda states: כי איך אעלה אל אבי והנער איננו אתי, how will I face my father and the child is not with me. The simple פשט is that אבי refers to יעקב and that יהודה says that he will not be responsible of facing יעקב if בנימין is missing. The Kotzke Rebbe, however, interprets אבי as a reference to Hashem. How will I, יהודה face Hashem if I am derelict in my responsibility to guard and care for my youngest brother.
אברהם had a responsibility to raise his son יצחק so that he would be willing to go to the עקידה. Had יצחק balked, do you believe that אברהם would have forced him? The מדרש seems to say that he would have not.
וישא עניו וירא את המקום מרחוק-אמר אברהם ליצחק מה אתה רואה מה שאני רואה אמר לו הן. אל כן ואני והנער נלכה עד כה. אמר לשני נעריו רואים אתם מה שאני רואה אמרו לו לא. אל כן שבו לכל פה על החמר.
As they approached the mountain אברהם turns to יצחק and asks him, “Do you see what I see?” (Avraham had seen the mountain roar with a loud roar, the ענן representing the presence of Hashem). יצחק responded yes. I can relate to the same level of קדושה and sanctity that you see. “If that is the case,” said אברהם, “let us travel together to the mountain.” Had יצחק not been capable of perceiving the presence of Hashem on the mountain, he would have left יצחק with his two lads.
Our challenge in to try to teach our children so that they will be prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to lead an enriching and observant life. One cannot force them. Parents must lead by example, provide the options, and hope that our children respond as Yitzchak did so that we, too, can experience the feeling of ואני והנער נלכה עד כה.