Oroh V'Simchoh

Meshech Chochmoh
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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 22, v. 1: "V'hoElokim nisoh es Avrohom" - We find in the narrative of the great test of the Akeidoh that Avrohom was the great hero upon whom the spotlight shines. Why doesn't the Torah stress the greatness of Yitzchok who was willing to be slaughtered? This question is raised by the Holy Zohar page 120.

Answers: (Answer #7 is from the MESHECH CHOCHMOH)

1) The Beis haLevi notes that throughout the story of the Akeidoh we find Avrohom being the courageous hero, and in our prayers we mention the Akeidoh of Yitzchok as our merit, as in the musof prayers of Rosh Hashonoh we say "va'akeidas YITZCHOK l'zaro b'rachamim tizkor." He answers that to have a merit that carries over from the Ovos, or any previous ancestor, we require a connection to that merit. If we display a bit of that lofty characteristic, then we can cash in on the same merit in a larger dose from previous generations. The merit of Avrohom was his selflessness in being willing to sacrifice his child. Yitzchok's merit was his eagerness to be sacrificed. The trait that has carried over to us in a greater measure is that of Yitzchok, not of Avrohom. Indeed, Avrohom's deed was greater than Yitzchok's and it is therefore Avrohom who is highlighted in the story of the Akeidoh, but when we ask Hashem for the merit of our Patriarchs' actions, we must stress the action of Yitzchok.

2) Avrohom heard what seemed to be a prophecy that contradicted a previous statement of Hashem, "Ki b'Yitzchok yiko'rei l'cho zorah" (21:12), and still proceeded. (Ponim Yofos)

3) Fulfilling a mitzvoh actively is greater than fulfilling a mitzvoh passively (Ritvo ch. 1 of gemara Y'vomos). This is an insight into why "a'sei docheh lo saa'seh," when a positive and negative mitzvoh are in conflict, the positive mitzvoh is done at the expense of the negative mitzvoh. Avrohom participated with action, but Yitzchok as a sacrifice, was passive. (Ponim Yofos)

4) The gemara Kidushin 31a says, "Godol mitzu'veh v'oseh mimi she'eino mitzu'veh v'oseh," - One is greater if he is commanded to do and does than one who is not commanded to do and does. Avrohom was commanded while Yitzchok wasn't. (Ponim Yofos)

5) Avrohom envisioned that upon slaughtering his son he would suffer the terrible loss for the rest of his life, while Yitzchok was called upon to show heroism for a short period of time only. (See gemara K'subos 33b which makes this point regarding the test of Chananioh, Misho'eil, and Azarioh.) (Ponim Yofos)

6) Since Yitzchok already said to Yishmoel (M.R. 55:4) "I am ready to be offered as a sacrifice to Hashem," his test was not as demanding. (Nachalas Yaakov)

7) Had this test been attributed to Yitzchok, his son Eisov would have demanded a reward for his progeny as well. This does not apply to Yishmoel having a claim to the merit of Avrohom since he was specifically excluded from being the continued progeny of Avrohom when Hashem said, "Ki b'Yitzchok yiko'rei l'cho zorah" (21:12). (See Shaalose U's'shuvos Mahari"t O.Ch. vol. 2 teshuvoh #6.) (MESHECH CHOCHMOH)

8) Perhaps, since Avrohom taught the world that offering human sacrifices was not the will of Hashem, had he now done so himself, he would have been the laughing stock of society. This would have brought him life-long humiliation of the greatest order. Yitzchok was called upon to show heroism for a short period of time only. This thought is quite similar to answer #5.

9) Another possibility: I believe the Noam Elimelech says on the words "Va'yar es hamokome meirochoke" (22:4), that Avrohom saw Hashem (haMokome meaning Hashem the Omnipresent) from a distance, not perceiving Hashem's presence as he was used to perceiving. When totally in touch with Hashem this test would be relatively small. The main point of the test was to offer his son while Avrohom was feeling like an average person, quite removed from Hashem. Hashem did not remove this closeness from Yitzchok, and his test was much easier.

10) Another possibility: Rabbi Mendel mi'Riminov explains the words "Va'yishlach Avrohom es yodo va'yikach es hamaa'chelles." Why doesn't the verse simply say "va'yikach es hamaa'chelles?" He answers that Avrohom had so thoroughly trained himself to do Hashem's bidding that his organs always sprang to the task. However, since it was not truly Hashem's intent to have Avrohom carry out the actual slaughtering of Yitzchok, Avrohom's hand did not respond with its normal alacrity. This required a special effort to stretch out his hand, hence the extra words "Va'yishlach Avrohom es yodo."

According to this, perhaps Avrohom's test was greater than Yitzchok's because Yitzchok responded to the call with alacrity, doing everything that Hashem intended him to actually do. Not so with Avrohom. He had to force himself to act at the crucial moment of taking the knife.

By the way: Medrash Tanchumoh answers the question of the need to say "Va'yishlach Avrohom es yodo" in a different manner. It says that the "sitro acharo," the evil forces, attempted to stop Avrohom all along the way as he pursued fulfilling Hashem's will. Avrohom had already picked up the knife, but the "sitro acharo" knocked it out of his hand. This required a separate "Va'yishlach yodo," "reaching out" his hand and again picking up the knife.

11) Perhaps an insight from HRH"G R' M.M. Shach shlit"a into the greatness of Avrohom at the time he received the prophecy of the Akeidoh will also answer the question. He says that we know that only Moshe was a prophet of such stature that he received a clear, unequivocal prophecy from Hashem (see Bmidbar 30:2). All other prophets, including Avrohom, received a clouded message, somewhat open to interpretation. This being the case, how might Avrohom have reacted upon receiving a prophecy to bring his son as a sacrifice? This was contrary to everything that Hashem had taught him and that he espoused to the world. Add to this the prophecy that through Yitzchok he would have a chain of descendants (21:12). Add the fact that Avrohom had this only son from Soroh at a very advanced age. It would have been exceedingly easy for him to read another interpretation into the prophecy. Yet he understood it properly and proceeded to fulfill it with alacrity. However, Yitzchok followed suit by relying on his father.

12) Perhaps an insight from the Malbim will also answer the question. He says that the greatest component of the test of the Akeidoh was when Avrohom heard that he should not slaughter his son. How would he react at this point? Would he say to himself, "B"H my son's life is saved," and immediately unbind him, or would he do this with the same attitude of fulfilling Hashem's wish? We see from the words of the angel, "Al tishlach yodcho el hanaar v'al taa'seh lo M'UMOH" (22:12), which the M.R. 56 says means "don't cause even the smallest blemish (mum mah) in Yitzchok," that Avrohom wasn't relieved at the turn of events, but to the contrary, he was still very eager to sacrifice Yitzchok. Only upon being specifically commanded to stop in his tracks did he relent. This is why Avrohom was credited with this test, while we have no such test for Yitzchok.

Ch. 22, v. 11: "Vayikra eilov malach Hashem min hashomayim" - Why did the angel call from the heavens rather than appear directly in front of Avrohom? The M.R. 56:7 says that had the angel waited to communicate with Avrohom on earth, the delay in time would have made it too late to save Yitzchok, as the blade was literally against his neck. I have difficulty in understanding this, as the angel could have been dispatched a bit earlier. Any insight would be appreciated.

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers that the angel was unable to appear in front of Avrohom by virtue of an halachic consideration. The M.R. 56:3 says that when Avrohom was attempting to sacrifice his son Yitzchok he had the status of a Kohein Godol. The Akeidoh took place on Yom Kippur according to the Yalkut Reuveini (This disagrees with the Psikta Rabosi 41:6 which says that it took place on Rosh Hashonoh, and also disagrees with the M.R. Shmos 15:15 which says that it took place during the month of Nison.), and as well it took place on the future Temple Mount at the location of the Holy of Holies. He says that sacrificing Yitzchok was equivalent to offering the incense in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. When the Kohein Godol offers the incense on Yom Kippur no one is allowed to be with him (Vayikroh 16:17), not even an angel, as mentioned in the gemara Yerushalmi Yoma chapter one. Hence the angel was only able to speak to him from a distance.

A minor point might be added to the words of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH. The Torah requires that a cloud be present upon the offering of the incense on Yom Kippur, "Ki be'onon eiro'eh al hakaporres" (Vayikroh 16:2). The M.R. Breishis 56:1 says that when Avrohom came to the designated mountain he saw a cloud above the mountain. Besides being a sign that this was the mountain Hashem chose, it might also have served the purpose of "ki be'onon." The MESHECH CHOCHMOH (as well as the Sforno) mentions a similar concept in parshas Acharei regarding the clouds of glory.


See also Sedrah Selections, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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