The still, small voice

Insights into people in the Torah, the Torah portion of Toldot Genesis 25:19–28:9

Moshe Kempinski,

Judaism Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
צילום: PR

The Biblical text spends many verses describing Abraham, his walk and his words. The same is true of Jacob. Yet regarding Yitzchak ( Isaac ) we do not hear that much. We hear very little of his words and his concerns and his prayers.

Why would that be?

After the story of Yitzchak  being brought to Mount Moriah, we read of Sarah's death at the age of 127 .It suddenly becomes clear  that Yitzchak was not a young lad as he went with his father to Mount Moriah. He may have been as old as 37 and therefore not a young boy being brought into danger unknowingly. That is to say that the  "Akeidat Yitzchak- the binding of Yitzchak" . Was as much of a test of Yitzchak's faith allowing himself to be bound up as it was a test of Abraham’s. As a result after that experience Yitzchak is transformed.

We see that as opposed as to the time wherein Abraham and his son approached Mount Moriah together, they leave separately. We read ” So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-Sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-Sheba (Genesis 22:19).

After the harrowing experience Abraham returned alone while Yitzchak stayed back to absorb, understand and grow from the experience.

Yitzchak is traditionally identified with the divine attribute of Gevurah or “Might” .This Might is not a description of physical strength and power but rather it relates to the ability to withhold one’s personal passions and fears in the face of great challenge.

As Ben Zoma declares in Pirkei Avot( ethics of the Fathers) “Who is mighty? One who conquers their impulse to evil, as it is written, “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one who rules over their spirit than one who conquers a city” (Proverbs16:32)”. Yitzchak’s experience on Mount Moriah was the greatest lesson and test of that attribute.

It was this might that enabled Yitzchak to complete Avraham's purpose in the world. "And Abraham will become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the world will be blessed in him (Genesis 18:8:).

That is implied in the first words of the Torah portion of Toldot;

"And these are the generations of Yitzchak the son of Abraham; Abraham begot Yitzchak.( Avraham Holeed et Yitzchak)" ( Genesis 25:19)


As the text begins to describe the life of Yitzchak it begins with the heading that " Abraham begot Yitzchak.That is to say Yitzchak's life is to be a continuation of Abraham's. In fact this truth is reiterated by Hashem to Yitzchak again and again;

Hashem tells Yitzchak “I will establish the oath that I swore to Avraham your father” (ibid 26:3). and this is so  “Because Avraham listened to My voice and kept My charge…” (ibid 26:6) . Then further we read “I am the God of Avraham, your father. Do not fear, for I am with you and will bless you… for the sake of Avraham, My servant” (ibid 26:24).

For most people in the world such a task would be crippling and unbearable. Not for Yitzchak. Yitzchak was all about Gevurah- Might. He accepted from the moment on Mount Moriah that his was the power to walk quietly and let Hashem use him in any way that Hashem sees fit in order to allow the plan of destiny to move forward.

Avraham's quality of Hessed- Lovingkindness could become an overflowing vessel unless it develops the boundaries of Gevurah. Hessed can lose its worth unless it develops the ability to silently set up walls. That would be Yitzchak's purpose and strength.

When Hessed and Gevurah combine, it paves the way for Jacob's attribute of “Emmet-Truth “described by the prophet Micah "Give truth to Yaacov" .Truth needs to be motivated by loving kindness but must be fashioned by unequivocal acceptance of Hashem's boundaries.

 That is the great strength of Yitzchak’s ’still small voice’ that allowed in its reverent “tzimtzum-(contraction)” for Abraham’s attribute of Hessed to be transformed into Truth.

LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther