Parshat Toldot – The Different Attributes of Our Forefathers – 2009
In order to understand the variety of psyches and the distinct and unique personal identities of the Avot, a closer look at the redeeming dominant feature of each of them brings us to an intimate understanding of Hashem’s attributes engrained in them, and their purpose for being in that specific generation.
Avraham bequeaths to Yitzchak the continuation of the revealed light of G-d in the world. He is likened to the rain falling down from the heavens unto the earth causing things to grow. He is a revolutionary downpour that washes the world clear of old bad habits and purifies the pagan altars. He gives of himself selflessly. He knows that everything that happens, for good or for bad- is from Hashem. He knows that Hashem is pure goodness even when reality is not easy to face or even when it laughs in his face. He prays only for others, never for himself. He never thinks of making a move to improve his own life. Ish chesed Avraham.
Yitzchak, on the other hand is like a tree, standing in one place. He is not running anywhere. He never leaves Eretz Yisrael; his wife is brought to him and later he is even “conned”. The underlying feature of his character is his passive will, like when he was bound on the altar. Like the tree, his core energy begins at the bottommost level of his humble existence. Being the protיgי of his father, he transmits his father’s teachings, but is a very different man than him. He accomplishes most of his “active duty” in deep prayer and by totally annulling his ego. Ish Gevurah Yitzchak.
Yaakov is like a flame. Although it says, “Ya’akov was a plain man dwelling in tents” we know that he isn’t ready to “stand for it”. He is the first emotional man, showing love and anger. He is the fire of excitement. He is neither too giving, nor too holding back, but a balance of the two. He progresses forward to building Beit Ya’akov, the House of Israel and fathers the twelve tribes. The shape and texture of his nefesh are a perfect blend of his father and grandfather. Ish Tiferet Ya’akov
The differentiation that Hashem created in every person, novel personality, and derech (way) in how to look at life is demonstrated in these three significant characters that are able to pass down masoret but maintain an individual identity, not always impersonating their own fathers. Later, when there is a further refinement and each tribe finds its position in the constellation of tasks, do we find a projection of mirror images of father-son likeness in that of Yosef to Ya’akov. But even here, looking like the “spitting image” of his father, in the sphere of things, Tiferet and Yesod have two different missions. Ya’akov takes matters into hand specifically in dealing with the management of his household. Yosef, on the other hand, pours bounty providing for his brothers and the rest of the world as well. He shows restraint like Yitzchak and in all humbleness gives all the credit to Hashem in his successes. He shows balance and emotion, being a combination of all of those who preceeded him but he has his own fish to fry…. We will delve into his intrigues in the coming parshiot- stay in tune!
Shabbat Shalom, Leah Goldsmith