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Isaac, Our Father

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales

  

Library » History » Patriarchs, 12 Tribes | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Isaac (Yitzchok) resembled his father Abraham in many ways. In fact, he looked so much like his father that there could be no mistake in anybody's mind about their being father and son. Our Sages say that G-d fashioned Isaac's face to be exactly like his father's because there were some wicked people who spread tales that Isaac's father was Abimelech, king of the Philistines, or that Isaac was a foundling whom Abraham and Sarah adopted. It is impossible, these talebearers said, that Abraham should become a father at the age of 100 years and Sarah at the age of 90. But when people saw Abraham and Isaac with their own eyes, there could be no doubt in their mind that Abraham was Isaac's father, and Isaac was Abraham's son (B.M. 87a).

Isaac was born on the first day of Pesach (Rosh Hashanah 11a). He was the first Jew to be born a Jew, whose parents were Jews. He was also the first Jewish boy to be circumcised at the age of eight days.

Isaac was 37 years old, and unmarried, when G-d commanded Abraham to offer him up as a Burnt Offering. In this connection, our Sages tell us the following story:

Ishmael, who was 13 years older than Isaac, boasted that he was more devoted to G-d than Isaac. "I was already 13 years old when I was circumcised. I willingly submitted myself to this painful operation. But you, Isaac, were a baby, eight days old. You knew nothing of what was going on . . .

"It does not require so much courage to undergo a Brith," Isaac replied. "A little pain, a few drops of blood, and that's all. But I assure you, if I were commanded this very day to give my whole life to G-d, I would do it without hesitation!"

Rebeckah was a true comfort to Isaac whose heart had been filled with sorrow since the death of his mother
No sooner were these words spoken than G-d commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a Burnt Offering. This was the greatest test to which Abraham was put during his lifetime, but it was no less of a test for Isaac. Our Sages tell us (what they infer from the text of the Akedah in the Torah) that Isaac knew that he was to be the Offering. For, while all necessary things were taken for the sacrifice, such as firewood, fire, and a knife, the most important thing of all, the lamb, was missing. Isaac knew that his father would not have been so careless as to forget the lamb; there was only one explanation: He, Isaac, was to be the "lamb." His father's reply confirmed this. For, when Isaac asked his father, "Where is the lamb for the Burnt Offering?" Abraham replied, "G-d will provide for Himself the lamb, for an offering, my son." Abraham hesitated after the word "lamb," as if to say "for an offering-my son." There was no doubt in Isaac's mind any more, yet both father and son were equally determined to carry out G-d's bidding with all their heart and soul.


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Sarah
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Esau
Rogue son of Patriarch Isaac and Matriarch Rebecca. Elder twin of Patriarch Jacob.
Ishmael
Son of the Patriarch Abraham and half-brother of Patriarch Isaac. Ancestor of many Arab tribes.
Noah
Tenth generation from Adam. Of all humankind, only he and his family survived the Flood which destroyed all civilization in the year 2106 BCE.
Laban
Rebecca's brother and father of Rachel and Leah. He deceived Jacob into marrying both of his daughters for the price of fourteen years of labor.
Pesach
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.