Friday, November 11, 2011

you've done the akeidah -- now what?

וישב אברהם אל נעריו ויצחק היכן הוא רבי ברכיה בשם רבנן דתמן שלחו אצל שם ללמוד ממנו תורה משל לאשה שנתעשרה מפלכה אמרה הואיל ומן הפלך הזה התעשרתי עוד אינו זז מתחת ידי לעולם כך אמר אברהם כל שבא לידי אינו אלא בשביל שעסקתי בתורה ובמצות לפיכך אינו רוצה שתזוז 
מזרעי לעולם 

After the akeidah the Torah tells us that Avraham returned to Eliezer and Yishmael, but no mention is made of what happened toYitzchak.  The Midrash fills in the gap: Yitzchak did not return with Avraham, but rather was sent way to yeshiva to Shem to learn Torah.  Avraham said, “All I have accomplished has been achieved only through Torah; therefore, I do not want my offspring to ever be separated from Torah.” 

There's a lot I don't understand here.  You mean Yitzchak did not learn Torah until this point?  And would he really learn more in the yeshiva of Shem than home with his father?  Furthermore, what does the mashal add to the point?  (Parenthetically, the Tanchuma mentions that Avraham needed to tell Sarah something -- he needed some excuse to leave on his journey -- so he told her he was taking Yitzchak to yeshiva.  True to his word, he did so.)

On a simple level I think the Midrash is telling is that the response to a remarkable event like the akeidah is not to step away, breathe a sigh of relief that it's all over, and then go to Disneyworld.   Rather, those newly found kochos have to become the impetus to build on.  In particular, the spiritual high of avodah needs to be brought into the limud haTorah of the day to day and not remain an isolated experience.  For example, there are lots of programs that will take kids to a retreat and run a kumsitz and everyone will feel all holy and good, but there has to be a next step of then learning a Ktzos and showing up for a regular seder day in and day out.

Perhaps the Midrash also means that Yitzchak acquired an additional impetus in learning davka through the akeidah.  Make no mistake about it, the akeidah was unique; it defies all comparison.  That being said, the midah of mesirus nefesh which became ingrained in Jewish genes through the akeidah is part and parcel of the commitment to Torah.  "Pas b'melach tochal" means a life of sacrifice.  "Adam ki yamus b'ohel" -- a person has to kill himself in learning to succeed.  

And after all is said and done, I don't think I've even scratched the surface of what Chazal mean here.  Ideas?


  1. great unknown9:59 PM

    Your tentative approach begs the question: into what spiritual elevation did Avrohom himself invest the power of the akeidah? About all we know of Avrohom post-akeidah is that he arranged to bury Sarah and marry off Yitzchok.

  2. Anonymous5:26 AM

    meanwhile, Yitzchak avinu's kallah-to-be was herself "showing up for a regular seder {shiur} day in and day out"; that is to say, Rivkah imeinu went down to the water, she filled her pitcher, & went up...24:16

  3. great unknown9:13 AM

    re anonymous:
    some mefarshim say that the day Eliezer showed up was the first day Rivkah went out to the spring.

  4. >>> into what spiritual elevation did Avrohom himself invest the power of the akeidah

    He invested himself in ensuring the best chinuch for his son.

  5. Anonymous10:31 AM

    >>> the first day Rivkah went out
    (g.u.'s comment above)

    --the pesukim themselves seem to anticipate Rivkah's arrival as one of the many 'regulars' among the
    daughters of the place

    --that the pitcher is on Rivkah's
    shoulder shows someone with poise, with experience; a newcomer would likely grasp the jug anxiously with both hands on (first) approach

    --the adaptive response to Eliezer is more commendable in someone used to an unbroken rhythm/ routine, than in one of no established pattern...

  6. great unknown11:27 AM

    re Chaim B. @ 10:13
    Excellent. The investment in chinuch of one's children, which is sufficient to answer the question, "Nashim bemah zachyan?" is obviously a great mitzvah. In fact, it is the first part of the mitzvah of talmud torah mentioned by the Rambam.

    But many see this is secondary to their own torah u'mitzvot. Not Avrohom, who took the ko'ach of the akeidah and focused it into magnifying his inherent koach of chesed, then combining that with torah to ensure the best chinuch for his son. Perhaps this is an aspect of the distinction made in Succos between Torah and Toras Chesed.

  7. Tal Benschar11:14 AM

    You mean Yitzchak did not learn Torah until this point? And would he really learn more in the yeshiva of Shem than home with his father?

    IIRC, R. Yakov Kamenitsky asks a similar question at the beginning of P. Vayetze when Yakov Avinu stops off at Yehivas Shem v' Ever. Presumably Yakov learned extensively with his father Yitzchak -- he was ish tam yosheiv ohalim. What did Yeshivas Shem v' Ever give him that his father could not?

    R. YK answered that Yeshivas Shem v' Ever taught how to live a Torah life in a corrupt world -- as Shem and Ever had to do, since they lived throught the dor ha mabul and dor haflagah. Yitzchak's Torah was more rarified, and was more focused on Avodas Hashem in a sheltered environment, not the corrupt world we live in. This was especially the case for Yakov, who was about to travel to and live with Lavan -- certainly a challenge for any ben Torah to do and not be negatively affected.

    Whether this relates to Avraham and Yitzchak, I can only speculate.

  8. I would not ask the question on parshas vayeitzei because in that context Ya'akov had no choice other than to flee his father's house and therefore he had to find some safe haven to sit and learn. Here, there is nothing compelling Yitzchak to go anywhere else.