Rashi explains the redundancy of the Torah telling us, “Avraham holid es Yitzchak,” by telling us that the “leitzanei ha’dor” believed and gossiped that Avimelech, not Avraham, was Yitzchak’s true father. To dispel any such misinformation, Hashem made Yitzchak look exactly like Avraham, reinforcing that Avraham and no one else was Yitzchak’s true father.
These “leitzanei ha’dor” clearly had a different agenda, a different message, than that of Avraham. So why, asks the Brisker Rav, are they called “leitzanim” and not simply “resha’im?” And even by their own reckoning, no matter who the father was, these leitzanim still had to acknowledge that Sarah had a baby at 90, certainly a miraculous feat, so what did they gain with their rumors?
The Brisker Rav answers that there is a need to believe that is built into the human psyche. For some people, that need to believe finds a positive outlet in Torah and mitzvos. For other people, that need to believe finds its outlet in false spirituality or other –isms that capture their imagination.
(Isn't it amazing that every -ism movement has Jews at its forefront? We are such a small percentage of the population, yet rise to the top of every cause. I would say, based on the Brisker Rav, that this is because we are ma'aminim b'nei ma'aminim -- we have an extra strong dose of belief power ingrained in us. When it's not directed to Torah and mitzvos, it expresses itself elsewhere with equal force and fervor.)
The leitzanei ha’dor are called leitzanim and not resha’im because they believed – they did not deny that Sarah could miraculously have a baby at age 90. The problem for them was accepting that Avraham could be the father, that nevu’ah could be fulfilled, which would mean that Avraham’s message is true, which would mean they need to change their lifestyle, which would mean yeshiva tuition and kosher food and a whole host of other “uncomfortable” rules and regulations. So along the way that belief had to be distorted. Yes, we believe -- just your message is false. We have our own interpretation that makes better sense.
What’s the answer to the leitzanei ha’dor? I don’t know if the Brisker Rav would like it, but I would interpret the Midrash cited by Rashi non-literally. More important perhaps than the fact that Yitzchak’s nose looked like Avraham’s, that Yitzchak’s eyes looked like Avraham’s, was the fact that when people looked at Yitzchak’s behavior, his character, his learning, they saw Avraham Avinu. Rav Kook is reported to have said, after meeting and hearing shiurim given by a young R’ Soloveitchik in 1935, that the experience reminded him of hearing shiurim from R’ Chaim’s back in Volozhin – “The genius of the grandfather has transferred to the grandson.” (link) When a ben Torah is mechavain to a Ketzos, to a R’ Akiva Eiger, to a R’ Chaim, when his thinking matches the giants of the past, that’s “Avraham holid es Yitzchak.” Not only in the beis medrash, but also in our homes, our business practice, our attitudes, should we hope that people see in us, “Avraham holid es Yitzchak.”