Avraham Transferred His Very Essence to His Son Yitzchok

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”

Parshas Chayei Sarah 2017/5778

Avraham Transferred His Very Essence to His Son Yitzchok

“ויתן אברהם את כל אשר לו ליצחק. ולבני הפילגשים אשר לאברהם נתן אברהם מתנות וישלחם מעל פני יצחק בנו” (בראשית כה:ה-ו)

“And Avraham gave all that he possessed to Yitzchok. And to the sons of the concubines of Avraham, Avraham gave gifts and he sent them away from the presence of Yitzchok his son” (Bereishis 25:5-6)

Now, we can discern a number of differences in the way Avraham meted out his inheritance; between that which he gave to Yitzchok and that which he gave to the sons of his concubines.

(1) Regarding Yitzchok it states “ויתן” / “And he will give” while regarding the sons of the concubines it states “נתן” / “he gave”.

(2) Regarding Yitzchok it states “את כל אשר לו” / “all that he possessed” and regarding the sons of the concubines it states “נתן מתנות” / “he gave gifts”.

(3) It is written “ויתן אברהם… ליצחק” / “And Avraham gave… to Yitzchok” and it does mention that he was his son, but later on it does mention this.

With G-d’s help we can clarify the above-mentioned points with the following explanations:

(1) Regarding Yitzchok, the posuk states “ויתן” which has the connotation of repeated or continual giving. This is learned both from the fact that the word is written in the future tense, and as well, from the additional letter vav placed at the beginning of the word. We find a similar explanation of this wording in the posuk “ויתן לך האלה-ים מטל השמים ומשמני הארץ ורב דגן ותירש” / “And Hashem will give to you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the land and plenty of grain and wine” (Bereishis 27:28) and our sages have explained the intention of this posuk (Bereishis Rabbah 66:3, brought in Rashi) that the meaning of “ויתן לך” is that Hashem will give and give again; time after time.

This means that that Avraham gave Yitzchok an inheritance similar to the water which sprouts forth from a wellspring. Just as the water sprouting from a wellspring has no end, so too the inheritance Avraham gave to Yitzchok has no end, meaning it will continue through Yitzchok to all of Avraham’s seed forever!

In contradistinction to the above, regarding the inheritance Avraham gave to the sons of the concubines it is written “נתן” / “he gave”, in the past tense, and without the added vav which teaches us that he gave them a one-time gift – never to repeat itself! In addition, the posuk says “וישלחם מעל יצחק בנו” / “and he sent them away from his son Yitzchok”, hinting to the fact that he conditioned their inheritance on their moving away from Yitzchok and having nothing at all to do with him! And this was so important to Avraham that he sent them away immediately, as it says “בעודנו חי” / “while I am still alive” and the next pesukim talk of Avraham’s demise. Thus we see that Avraham gave opposite types of inheritance to his different sons!

[Now, that which is said here regarding the sending off of the sons of the concubines appears to contradict that which the Torah mentioned above regarding the sending off of Yishmael. Regarding Yishmael, Sarah said to Avraham “exile this handmaid (Hagar) and her son (Yishmael) for the son of this handmaid will not inherit with my son, with Yitzchok” (ibid 21:10). The Torah states there that Avraham was extremely upset about the idea of having to send his only son into exile, and that he only agreed to send him away because he was commanded to do so by Hashem through the prophecy of Sarah as it states “כל אשר תאמר אליך שרה שמע בקולה” / “all that Sarah tells you, listen in her voice” (ibid 21:12). Therefore here, where there is no directive from above, why does Avraham show such willingness to send the sons of his concubines into exile!? His reaction here seems to contradict his reaction above!

It appears that we can answer the above dilemma through analyzing the wording of the pesukim regarding Yishmael. There it states “כי לא יירש בן האמה הזאת עם בני עם יצחק” / “for the son of this handmaid will not inherit with my son, with Yitzchok”. There are two questions to ask regarding the above wording: (1) Why didn’t Sarah call Yishmael by his name instead of referring to him as “the son of this handmaid”? (2) Why did she repeat herself saying with my son, with Yitzchok”?

In answer to the above, we can suggest that Sarah’s words, as they were words of prophecy, included in them an additional instruction to Avraham regarding the sending away of the sons of the concubines in the future. Based on this understanding we say suggest that “עם בני” / “with my son” refers to the sending away of Yishmael and “עם יצחק” / “with Yitzchok” refers to the sending away of the sons of the concubines.

With this, we can answer as well the first question we asked why it states “כי בן האמה הזאת” / “for the son of this handmaid” without mentioning the name of Yishmael, and that is that the language was kept general in order to include in it the future sending of the sons of the concubines as well.

With this, as well, we can answer the apparent unnecessarily lengthy language in the posuk “כל אשר תאמר אליך שרה שמע בקולה” / “all that Sarah will say to you, listen in her voice”. Apparently it should have been written “תשמע לכל אשר תאמר אליך שרה” / “Listen to all that Sarah will say to you”!? According to the above we can explain that the first part of the posuk “כל אשר תאמר אליך שרה” / “all that Sarah will tell you” is referring to that which Sarah tells Avraham regarding the sending away of Yishmael, and the second part of the posuk “שמע בקולה” / “listen in her voice” is referring to the future sending away of the sons of the concubines.]

(2) Regarding the inheritance given to Yitzchok, the posuk states “את כל אשר לו” / “all that he (Avraham) possessed”. That is, Avraham gave to Yitzchok that which was “his” – meaning that which belonged to his soul and not one of his external possessions. In this vein, Rashi explains that Avraham gave the power to bless others to Yitzchok. This hints to the great holiness found in Avraham from which stemmed his ability to bless others, similar to that which is stated by Shabbos”ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי ויקדש אותו” / “And Hashem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (ibid 2:3). That is, Hashem blessed the seventh day because of its holiness. And so with Avraham, he inherited the power to bless by means of his great holiness.

However, to the sons of the concubines he gave “gifts”, that is his material possessions. See Rashi who says in the name of the sages that Avraham gave them a name of spiritual impurity. This proves what we suggested above that all the spiritual forces Avraham possessed he inherited to Yitzchok.

As an alternative explanation of “gifts” Rashi says that Avraham gave them all the gifts he received from others for he did not want to benefit from them. According to this, even Avraham’s money and material he preferred not to give to his other sons for also the possessions of a righteous person have holiness. The reason being either because they are all used in Hashem’s service or as the sages bring (Chulin 91a) on the posuk “ויותר יעקב לבדו” / “And Yaakov remained alone” (ibid 32:25) that Yaakov crossed back over the river in order to retrieve the small vessels he had left there. Why was he so concerned with small vessels? For the righteous do not steal and therefore all their material possessions are precious to them.

Another reason why Avraham gave the gifts he received to his other sons was because he didn’t want to give them to Yitzchok for it is written “שונא מתנות יחיה” / “One who hates gifts will live” (Mishlei 15:27) and he wanted to add to Yitzchok’s life and not reduce it. This is consistent with that which we mentioned above that the wording “ויתן” / “And he will give” to Yitzchok expresses a continual giving affording continual life to Yitzchok.

(3) We asked above why in the statement”ויתן אברהם את כל אשר לו ליצחק” that the word “son” was not mentioned. The answer is that Avraham not only gave to Yitzchok his internal inheritance, but “כל אשר לו” / “all that he possesses”, meaning he himself! Avraham put his very essence into Yitzchok! For this reason, it was not mentioned here that Yitzchok was his son. This is similar to that which we find that Yaakov put himself, so to say, into his son Yosef as the posuk says “אלה תולדות יעקב יוסף” / “These are the offspring of Yaakov Yosef” (ibid 37:2) and the sages teach us that there were great similarities between the two: Yosef looked exactly like Yaakov and all that Yaakov did in the house of Lava was only for Rochel who was to give birth to Yosef. Also, when Yaakov was told that Yosef had been killed, he felt that he himself had died. This teaches us that he put himself into Yosef’s very being until whatever happened to Yosef, he felt that it had happened to him! As we suggested above, I saw in the sefer Sifsei Cohen on the posuk “כי ארד אל בני אָבֵל שאולה” (ibid 37:35) that when Yaakov heard that Yosef was killed, he considered himself to have died. And so upon hearing of Yosef’s death the holy Shechinah parted from him and this was a sign of spiritual death. And so when Yaakov saw Yosef in Egypt it states “ותחי רוח יעקב אביהם”/ “and the spirit of Yaakov their father was revived” (ibid 45:27) and Rashi explains that the holy Shechinah returned to him and his soul was revived!

Based on the above we can understand the posuk”ויאמר ישראל רב עוד יוסף בני חי אלכה ואראנו בטרם אמות” / “And Yisrael said my son Yosef lives long, I will go and see him before I die” (ibid 45:28). Why was Yaakov so interested in seeing his son before he himself dies? If you’ll say that Yaakov is expressing the feelings of every father, there would be no need for the Torah to say this as the Torah comes to teach and not to record or express!? Rather we can suggest that Yaakov wanted to see Yosef in order to imbue him with Yaakov’s very essence. For this reason as well it is not written here “יצחק בנו” / “Yitzchok his son”, for Avraham put himself, so to say, into Yitzchok, until it wasn’t his son he was giving to but himself! And that which Yitzchok is referred to afterwards as Avraham’s son as it states “וישלחם מעל יצחק בנו” is only in response so to say to that which the posuk states “the sons of the concubines of Avraham”.

Another reason why the first posuk did not mention that Yitzchok was the son of Avraham is that the Torah is teaching us that even if Yitzchok wasn’t his son, he was worthy of receiving all of the great spiritual wealth of Avraham had to offer!

Be proud of your Jewish heritage! It is a sign of purity and holiness – special and unique to the Jewish people alone! A heritage that cannot be copied nor replicated with all the technology in the world! Where can you find the gift of holiness which Avraham gave to Yitzchok? In the Torah! Take a look! Through its learning and fulfillment a person can reconnect himself to the original sparks of holiness which Avraham brought into the world!

Kislev 5777

Have a great Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

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