"G‑d revealed to him [Isaac] and said: Do not go down to Egypt…." (Gen. 26:2)

The true home of the Jewish people is the Land of Israel, for G‑d made this land uniquely conducive to feeling His presence. It is for this very reason that the sages of the Talmud state that, while in exile, the Jewish people are considered "children that have been banished from their Father's table." (Berachot 3a) Therefore, even though the circumstances of exile may compel us to temporarily live outside the Holy Land, we should never forget that the lands of our Diaspora are not our true home. We should yearn constantly for G‑d to restore us to "His table"; indeed, the daily liturgy ensures that we pray—and even demand1—several times a day that He do so.2

It was because Isaac was consecrated as an ascent-offering that G‑d did not allow him to leave the Holy Land. The more we emulate Isaac's holiness, the more deeply will we feel how the Holy Land is our home and how incongruous is our exile from it.

Isaac had considered going down to Egypt, just as his father Abraham had. (ibid., Rashi)

Having been raised by his father to believe in Divine providence, Isaac assumed that the famine was meant to induce him to journey outside the Land of Israel in order to disseminate Divine teachings there, just as his father had done. (Above, 12:10)

The force, clarity, and vigor of this inner work would give Isaac a magnetic charisma...

But G‑d told Isaac not to leave the land, thereby affirming that his particular mode of bringing Divine awareness to the world differed from Abraham's. Abraham taught through outreach, traveling to his audience and tailoring his message to his listeners' ability to grasp. Isaac, in contrast, focused on intensifying his own Divine consciousness and that of his own immediate milieu. The force, clarity, and vigor of this inner work would give Isaac a magnetic charisma that would draw the outside world to him and make them aspire to emulate him.

And, indeed, the subsequent events proved this the case. As we will see later, Avimelech, king of Philistia, sought to make Isaac his ally, telling him that "we have seen that G‑d is with you."3

Abraham is the paradigm of those who sanctify the world from within; Isaac is the paradigm of those who sanctify the world from without, sequestered in synagogues and centers of Torah study. The latter should intend, as did Isaac, that their insular activities affect the world around them.

Since the patriarchs are the fathers of us all, each type of person must take time out to sanctify the world through the means that that is primarily the domain of the other type. Torah students must take time off from their studies to teach and help others, and working people must take time off from their jobs to study the Torah. But even when working people take time out for study, they should do so with the intent of spiritualizing the material world, only this time through an insular-type activity.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 25, pp. 123-129; vol. 15, pp. 208-209 and note 68 ad loc
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org