THERE WAS A FAMINE IN THE LAND, beside the first famine that had been in the
days of Avraham. And Yitzchak
went to Avimelech, King of the Philistines in Gerar.
And Hashem appeared to him and He said:
Do not go down to Egypt. Remain
in the land . . . (Bereishit 26:1-2).
AVINU intended to continue his journey southward beyond Gerar towards
Egypt. But Hashem instructs him
to remain there and promises to protect and bless him.
EXPLAIN THAT YITZCHAKS REQUIREMENT to remain in Eretz Yisrael stems from
his designation as the olah temimah, the perfect burnt-offering, when
he was bound and prepared as a sacrifice by his father Avraham at the Akeidah.
As Rashi says, Chutz La-aretz [outside of Israel] is
not fitting for you (26:2).
THIS RESPECT, YITZCHAK is unique among the Avot: Avraham originated from Ur Kasdim, and then traveled to, and
throughout, Eretz Yisrael. However,
when the first famine struck the land, he descended to Egypt.
Yaakov was born in Eretz Yisrael, but when he was threatened by his
twin brother Esav, he fled to Charan and lived there for 22 years.
The last 17 years of his life were spent in Egypt.
WAS THE ONLY ONE OF THE AVOT who lived his entire life
all 180 years
in Eretz Yisrael. True, his life
there was marked by instability, moving from place to place, encountering
challenge after challenge to his claims on the land, and subject to the whims
of Avimelech and others. Yet, his feet never left the soil of Israel, because
he was the olah temimah.
DOES it mean for Yitzchak Avinu to be, in effect, a living sacrifice?
TO THE HALACHA it is forbidden to remove any sacrifice from its
prescribed boundaries (mechitzot), and removal renders it unfit.
In fact, even the intention of removing it from its
boundaries renders it pasul (invalid)!
Each type of sacrifice has its own defined area.
For example, the korban pesach (Passover sacrifice) must not be
removed from the city of Jerusalem. An
olah must remain within the precincts of the Bet Hamikdash.
It would seem that, for Yitzchak, all of Eretz Yisrael was defined as
his Bet Hamikdash, where he carried out his avodah (service to
Hashem). In the words of one Midrash, when Hashem tells Yitzchak SHCHON
(26:2), to remain in Eretz Yisrael, this means Cause the Divine Presence (SHCHINAH)
to reside in the Land.
IS IMPORTANT to note that a korban may not be removed from its
boundaries, but only from the moment the animal is slaughtered.
As long as the animal is alive there is no such restriction.
Therefore, a person can designate a living animal as a korban
while yet on the farm. When it is brought to the Bet Hamikdash, the animal
may still be returned as desired. Only
after the animal is slaughtered does it become a korban, and must
remain within its mechitzot.
ASPECT OF KORBANOT puzzles me regarding Yitzchak Avinus
designation as an olah temimah. Although
he was prepared, even bound, as a sacrifice, he was not slaughtered!
At the last moment, Hashem told Avraham, Do not send forth your
hand against the young man, nor do anything to him (Bereishit
ANSWER to this problem is quoted in the name of the Chidushei HaRim (R.Yitzchak
Meir Alter Rothenberg, the first Gerrer Rebbi, 1789-1866): At first, it seems, that Yitzchak is to be offered as a
sacrifice in the conventional manner. This is apparent from the words of the
original directive: VHAALEHU
? and bring him up there as an olah.
However, Hashem then commands Avraham not to slaughter him.
Rashi explains that, since Hashem is Eternal and Perfect, He is not
changing His mind. Rather,
His intention all along was to bring him up ? that is, prepare
him and take him up the mountain as one would an olah ? but not
actually slaughter and burn him. HAALEHU
means bring him up; now that he has been brought up, bring him down.
THIS POINT AVRAHAM understands that, unlike other olot that are
slaughtered and burned, the manner of avodah for the olah temimah
called Yitzchak was specifically to prepare him, not to slaughter him.
The preparation itself was the sum and substance of the maaseh
hakravah (the act of offering), granting Yitzchak the status of olah
temimah. Consequently, Eretz Yisrael became his arena of sanctity that
defined him. After the act of offering, a korban must undergo
YITZCHAKS Bet Hamikdash was all of Eretz Yisrael, then
the work he would do in the land would be his hartzaah.
This is supported by another Midrash on the word SHCHON:
Make a dwelling (SHCHUNAH) in the Land of Israel;
plant saplings, sow, dig wells.
For the rest of his life, every contribution Yitzchak would make to
Eretz Yisrael would be a fulfillment of his mission as the olah temimah.
ARE WE MEANT to learn from Yitzchaks example?
IN TRYING TO LIVE a life of Torah, we tend to focus on what must be
relinquished or rejected. We
dwell on the fact that our social connections and our physical outlets must be
limited in many ways. While
it is true that sanctity requires
that is not the totality of kedushah. The life of Torah is not one of
negation; it is a life of elevation. It
is a life in which every arena of our activity ? not merely the
synagogue and school, but the home, the media and the marketplace ?
contains the potential for sanctification.
LIVED AS AN OLAH TEMIMAH after the Akeidah, which is not
to say that he regarded his life forfeit.
Quite the contrary: Yitzchaks
avodah was such that everything he did was an act of devotion to Hashem.
WAS TRUE both when he went out to meditate in the field towards
evening as well as when he dug wells to water his flocks.
COURSE, A LIFE OF TORAH requires some sacrifice;
certainly, we must take a firm stand against those values antithetical
to Torah. But what is truly
demanded of us is what Hashem commanded Yitzchak Avinu: Cause the
Divine Presence to reside ? Plant, sow, dig ? make the
world our Sanctuary and imbue it with the values of Hashems Torah.