These are the offspring of Yitzchak
son of Avraham.
On the fifteenth day of the moon’s monthly orbit, we see its entire body.
Ironically, this is the day the moon is farthest from the sun. It is then
that the moon’s light is most pronounced. As it moves closer to the sun
its light is diminished.
The closer one is to one’s source, the smaller one feels. When one is
close, one’s existence or independence is “dark,” inconspicuous. The further
one is from one’s source, the bigger one feels. [In the overwhelming presence of the king or the sage,
the subject or the student is nonexistent. As he moves away to spread
the word, his existence becomes more pronounced.]
In the blessings before the Shema we praise G-d as “the One who forms
light and creates darkness.” The world of Formation
(Yetzirah) is lower than the world of Creation (Beriah). It is a further step
in the creation of physical reality. (The world of Creation is merely
the creation of a most rarefied matter. This matter is not formed at all.
It is in the world of Formation that this matter takes on a defined shape.)
The world of Formation is therefore associated with light (“one
who forms light”) because of its distance from the Source.
The world of Creation is associated with darkness (“who creates
darkness”) because of its closeness to the Source.
Avraham and Yitzchak
From the Zohar:
And G-d called the light “day”—this refers to Avraham; for he
is the light of day.
And the darkness He called “night”—this refers to Yitzchak, for
he is darkness.
The Patriarchs are called “the Chariot.” Just as a chariot
has no agenda of its own—its identity and direction is dictated solely
by the will of the rider—so the Patriarchs were merely conduits for the
expression of Divinity.
More specifically, Avraham was a conduit for Chessed (kindness, love,
revelation) of the highest world Atzilus, Yitzchak of Gevurah (restraint,
awe, concealment,) of Atzilus, and Yaakov of Tiferes (beauty, harmony,
mercy) of Atzilus.
Thus it is written in the Kabbala that the attribute of Kindness said
to the Holy One blessed is He, “Master of the Universe! From the day Avraham
came upon the earth, I have not needed to do my task. Avraham stands and
serves in my place.”
Enclothed in a physical body, Avraham replaced the attribute of Chessed
as it exists in the world of Atzilus. Avraham was known for his extraordinary
generosity and hospitality.
He gave freely of his possessions, even of his body and soul. Not only did he provide
expensive delicacies to all of his guests, he himself stood over them
and tended to their needs. Even while recovering from his circumcision,
he ran to prepare food for his guests.
He gave of his soul as well, spending his life explaining Monotheism to
anyone who would listen.
Avraham’s life focused on love and kindness, which resulted in the revelation
of G-dliness to the masses.
He focused on channeling Divinity to the far reaches of reality. He brought
the heavenly into earth (hamshacha milmailah limatah—drawing from
above to below). Thus he is called Day and Light—revelation.
Yitchak was a “chariot” to Gevurah of Atzlilus. His Divine service consisted
of “digging wells,” eliciting the waters hidden below, a task that requires
great strength. The spiritual idea of digging wells
is to elevate what is below—bringing the earthly to heaven (hamshacha
milmatah limailah—drawing from below to above). Yitzchak epitomizes
the soul’s yearning for transcendence, to leave the physical world and
become one with its Divine source—an upward motion. Avraham epitomizes
the downward motion of bringing the G-dly into the physical. [Avraham
travels here and there to spread the word; Yitzchak never leaves the Holy
Land. He is called an “unblemished burnt offering,” referring to the fact
that he was “sacrificed” to G-d.]
These two directions are known as ratzo (running, yearning) and
shov (return, practicality).
Now And Then
The era following the revelation at Sinai is one of shov. At Sinai
we were given the capacity to draw holiness into the physical. However,
the physical remains lowly. In the Messianic era, the world will experience
ratzo, we will be elevated from our lowliness and brought close
to our Source. The Messianic era is therefore described as a time when
“they will go into the caves in the rocks…because of the fear of G-d and
the splendor of His majesty.”
This is a description of the intense awe and humility that will be experienced
as result of the closeness we will then experience.
Thus Yitzchak, whose thrust is closeness to the Divine—as opposed Avraham’s
bringing the Divine to earth—epitomizes selflessness and awe in the face
of the Creator.
Yitzchak is therefore the Patriarch most associated with the Messianic
era—“then they will say to Yitzchak, you are our father.”
This explains why the wells of Yitzchak, unlike those of Avraham, were
not blocked up by the Philistines. Since Avraham’s service takes place
from afar, his accomplishments are susceptible to corruption. The accomplishments
of Yitzchak, however, contain no trace of self and are therefore invulnerable
to the advances of darkness. &
[Adapted and summarized by RabbiYosef Marcus.]