November 7, 2018
The Rebbe in #1140, D'var Malchus, Toldos

Since Yishmoel is characterized by chesed just like Avrohom, but as an expression of klipa there is in a sense a greater affinity between Yishmoel and Avrohom than Yitzchok and Avrohom

Translated by Boruch Merkur

4. […] The Torah states, “These are the descendants of Yishmoel, etc.,” describing how he sired a great dynasty, “twelve princes, etc.” It is highly perplexing though that Yishmoel merited such greatness.

The Torah therefore addresses this difficulty by stating, “Yishmoel was the son of Avrohom”: Yishmoel’s vast progeny was not his own accomplishment, G-d forbid; it was in virtue of G-d’s pledge to Avrohom: “Regarding Yishmoel, I have acceded to your request” that “he will beget twelve princes, etc.” Yishmoel benefitted from the chesed of Avrohom, and was therefore blessed with a multitude of offspring. Since Avrohom was abundantly benevolent, he (extended opportunity even to Yishmoel, and) told G-d, “If only Yishmoel would live” – and not only “live” but “live before You,” alluding to Supernal chesed (which is called “g’dula – greatness”), infinite kindness (the Divine attribute with which G-d created and sustained twenty-six generations [i.e., ten generations from Adam to Noach, ten from Noach to Avrohom, and six generations from Avrohom until the revelation at Mount Sinai], providing for the needs of humanity with His kindness [despite their lack of Torah and Mitzvos] ––P’sachim 118a.) As explained in Chassidus, the chesed of Avrohom (prior to his circumcision) embodied this attribute of g’dula.

Now, since the Torah refers to Yishmoel’s descendance from Avrohom, it cannot neglect to mention Yitzchok’s descendance from him as well; the Torah must also state that Yitzchok was the “son of Avrohom.” And once Torah describes him as “Yitzchok son of Avrohom,” it goes on to add that “Avrohom begot Yitzchok” – for two reason: 1) In order to rule out the claim of the scoffers of the generation [who said that Avimelech was the father of Yitzchok], as Rashi comments. 2) Although Torah traces the lineage of both Yishmoel and Yitzchok to Avrohom, the descendance of Yitzchok from Avrohom was entirely different. Not only was Yitzchok the son of Avrohom, but “Avrohom begot Yitzchok.” That is, Avrohom’s focus and aspiration was entirely on Yitzchok, and as it is written, “For your progeny will be called (specifically) by [the descendants of] Yitzchok.”

5. But there is a deeper understanding of this matter, of the fact that the Torah must emphasize the relationship of Yitzchok to Avrohom because the Torah traces Yishmoel to Avrohom:

The spiritual difference between Avrohom and Yitzchok is widely known (S’forno; see also Klei Yakar on the parsha, as well as Ohr HaTorah). Avrohom was a chariot to the Divine attribute of chesed, benevolence. He served G-d primarily through acts of kindness and by providing hospitality. Yitzchok, on the other hand, was a chariot to the Divine attribute of g’vura, severity and discipline. The Torah therefore describes Yitzchok’s digging of wells, which is the process of excavating earth and stones, and revealing springs of water that rush up to the surface from below.

The same distinction exists in the unholy sense: Klipa syphoned kindness from Avrohom and tapped into the severity of Yitzchok. Thus, from Avrohom, Yishmoel emerged, chesed d’klipa (the unholy forces assuming the role of benefactor), whereas emerging from Yitzchok was Eisav, g’vura d’klipa (the severity and discipline of the unholy forces).

Since Yishmoel is characterized by the quality of chesed (just like Avrohom, but as an expression of klipa, and since Yishmoel is described as “emerging” from Avrohom, “yatza mimeno”), overtly there is a greater affinity between Yishmoel and Avrohom than Yitzchok and Avrohom. Yitzchok embraced the approach of severity and discipline, the opposite of chesed. Torah therefore must also say about Yitzchok that despite his spiritual difference, he is the son of Avrohom, even adding that “Avrohom begot Yitzchok.” Indeed, Yitzchok is the main offspring of Avrohom.

6. The above also sheds light on the commentary of Rashi, “What did the Alm-ghty do? He fashioned Yitzchok’s face to resemble the face of Avrohom.” Evidently, a special action on the part of G-d was required here. But at first glance, a son resembles his father according to the laws of nature (unless there are factors that contribute to the son not sharing his father’s likeness. Also, see Eiduyos 2:9 and the commentary of Rambam there.) Why then was a miracle required to make Yitzchok appear like Avrohom? (Footnote 32: In Agadas B’Reishis Ch. 37, it states: “The Alm-ghty commanded the angel … ‘Do not fashion him to resemble his mother. Rather, he should resemble his father.’” This too, however, requires explanation. Why if not for G-d’s command would he resemble his mother and not his father?)

But according to the discussion above, this matter is understood. The fact that a son resembles his father is because the son is derived from the father, from his body and soul. Thus, he resembles his father both physically and by the character of his soul.* But since spiritually Avrohom and Yitzchok were opposites – the soul of Avrohom deriving from chesed and the soul of Yitzchok from g’vura – they were also opposite in terms of mindset. (The latter concept is widely known in terms of the difference between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel – that because of the difference of their souls, their manner of thinking differed: Beis Shammai was inclined toward stringency and Beis Hillel toward leniency.) According to the laws of nature, Avrohom and Yitzchok would have been different, even opposites, and the difference would have been particularly apparent in their faces, since facial features and appearance reflect the person’s mindset – as it is said, “A man’s wisdom illuminates his face.”** Therefore it was necessary [for G-d to do a special miracle and] to “fashion Yitzchok’s face to resemble the face of Avrohom.”


*Footnote 33: See Perush HaRambam there:

Physical attractiveness and beauty as well as longevity come from the life [force of the father]. That is, since they are similar in character, the duration of the son’s life will undoubtedly approximate that of his father. This principle applies in most cases. Also, regarding [other] natural circumstances, the same resemblance typically applies. A man who has a defect will likely bequeath it to his son. A son will enjoy wealth from his father. If the father is wise, he typically imparts that to his son by teaching him.

In Tosefta the Sages dispute the opinion of Rebbi Akiva, saying that a father only brings merit to the son with regard to these five things [mentioned in the Mishna: beauty, strength, wealth, wisdom, and longevity] throughout the son’s youth, not having yet reached the age when Mitzvos are incumbent upon the son. However, once he’s reached that age, if the son is righteous, he brings merit upon himself of his own consequence, but if not, his father does not pass it on to him.

**Footnote 37: especially regarding the Avos, who comprise the Merkava (B’Reishis Rabba 47:6, 82:6), certainly their bodies (their facial appearance) corresponded to the character of their souls.

(From the address of Shabbos Parshas Toldos 5725, Sichos Kodesh 5725, pg. 134-136)


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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