A Father’s Legacy (Toldot)
I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection. -Sigmund Freud
Isaac is perhaps one of the more saintly characters in our history. He was willing to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah. He steadfastly continued his father’s work, following in Abraham’s footsteps in serving God and bringing the teachings of Abraham to the next generation.
When God speaks to Isaac and tells him that he will inherit the land of Canaan, he warns him against leaving the land and tells him that he and his progeny have received the land in Abraham’s merit.
The Berdichever wonders why the saintly Isaac wasn’t told he would receive the land on his own merit. Isaac was righteous. Isaac was diligent in following his father’s path. Isaac is one of the three founding Patriarchs of the Jewish nation. Did he not have enough divine “credit” like Abraham did, to merit the Promised Land in his own right?
The Berdichver explains that a major part of Abraham’s mission was to “raise the sparks” of the world up to God. In order to accomplish the mission, Abraham needed to travel far and wide and interact with the world outside of the Promised Land. Abraham was able to gather these far-flung sparks and bring them back with him to Canaan.
However, once Abraham had gathered these spiritual sparks to Canaan, Isaac was able to “raise the sparks” from Canaan to Heaven. There was no need for him to leave Canaan. Abraham had passed on to Isaac the power to raise these sparks. Abraham’s gathering of the sparks somehow empowered Isaac to be able to conduct this unique spiritual function. Isaac had what is called “Zchut Avot” – merit of the fathers, which Abraham himself didn’t have.
Because Abraham lacked a father who was able to pass on to him this spiritual power and legacy, he needed to roam the world and develop his own merit. However, Isaac, who did have the merit of being born to and raised by the spiritually developed Abraham, didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. He didn’t have to go on his own geographically challenging journey of spiritual discovery and development. He was able to continue where his father left off in the Promised Land. He was able to take the work his father had done and elevate it higher.
It is due to Abraham, the trailblazer, who came from a spiritually humble upbringing, in whose merit Isaac is told that he and his progeny will receive the Promised Land. While Abraham may have been the trailblazer, it was Isaac who followed, elevated and passed on the trailblazer’s trail.
Both the trailblazer and the one who continues the trailblazer’s work are vitally important. No development of importance can endure without both. It was that spiritually powerful father-and-son team that lead to Jacob, to the tribes of Israel and to the eternal Jewish people.
In the end, we are told, that we have received the land in the merit of all three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
To the Chabad trailblazers and their continuers. Their Kinus Shluchim, the gathering of their emissaries, from all over the globe, was incredibly inspiring.