These are the offspring of Isaac son of Abraham. (Gen. 25:19)

Abraham and Isaac

From the Zohar:
"And G‑d called the light 'day'…" (Gen. 1:5) - this refers to Abraham, for he is the light of day. "…and the darkness He called 'night'" (ibid.) - this refers to Isaac, for he is darkness. (Zohar I:141b) A chariot has no agenda of its own…

The Patriarchs are called "the Chariot". (Bereishit Rabba 47:6) Just as a chariot has no agenda of its own (its identity and direction is dictated solely by the will of the rider), so the Patriarchs were merely conduits for the expression of divinity. More specifically, Abraham was a conduit for chesed of the highest world Atzilut, Isaac of gevura of Atzilut, and Jacob of tiferet of Atzilut.

Thus it is written in the Kabbala that the attribute of chesed said to the Holy One blessed is He, "Master of the Universe! From the day Abraham came upon the earth, I have not needed to do my task. Abraham stands and serves in my place. " (Sefer Habahir 191, cited in Pardes 22:4)

Enclothed in a physical body, Abraham replaced the attribute of chesed as it exists in the world of Atzilut. Abraham was known for his extraordinary generosity and hospitality (Sotah 10a). He gave freely of his possessions, even of his body and soul (Orchot Tzadikim 17). Not only did he provide expensive delicacies to all of his guests, he himself stood over them and tended to their needs. Even while recovering from his circumcision, he ran to prepare food for his guests (Gen. 18:7). He gave of his soul as well, spending his life explaining Monotheism to anyone who would listen.

[Note: Since Abraham was chesed of Atzilut, which is in the world of Tikun, his chesed incorporated gevura. Thus when the situation called for gevura, he was strict with his guests: when they refused to acknowledge G‑d, he would make them pay a high price for their meal.]

Abraham's life focused on love and kindness, which resulted in the revelation of G‑dliness to the masses. He focused on channeling divinity to the far reaches of reality. He brought the heavenly into earth (i.e. the concept of "drawing from above to below"). Thus he is called "day" and "light" - i.e. revelation.

[Abraham thereby fulfilled the command stated in the Shema, "and you shall love your G‑d." The Talmud (Yoma 86a) explains this to mean that "the Name of G‑d should be made beloved by your actions." (This interpretation of the command answers the famous question: How can G‑d command us to love Him? How can we be commanded to feel a certain way? Generally, Chasidut explains that the command is to meditate on G‑d's greatness. This will cause a person to love G‑d. However, this answer is not entirely satisfactory, since the command is "and you shall love," not "and you shall meditate." Sefer Hamaamarim 5699 p. 105.)] Isaac epitomizes the soul's yearning for transcendence…an upward motion…

Isaac was a "chariot" to gevura of Atzilut. His divine service consisted of "digging wells", i.e. eliciting the waters hidden below, a task that requires great strength. The spiritual idea of digging wells is to elevate what is below - bringing the earthly to heaven (i.e. the concept of "drawing from below to above"). Isaac epitomizes the soul's yearning for transcendence, to leave the physical world and become one with its divine source - an upward motion. Abraham epitomizes the downward motion of bringing the G‑dly into the physical. Abraham travels here and there to spread the word; Isaac never leaves the Holy Land and is called an "unblemished burnt offering," referring to the fact that he was "sacrificed" to G‑d. These two directions are known as "running" (i.e. yearning) and "returning" (i.e. practicality).

[Author's note: Although he was not actually sacrificed, he retained the status of a burnt offering. Isaac thus symbolizes the ultimate self-sacrifice. He was not only willing to die for G‑d, he actually did die temporarily. Unlike Abraham's walk in the fire, which did no harm at all, Isaac's binding caused his soul to leave him. Such self-sacrifice stems from the power of the essence of the soul, which is one with G‑d. It therefore permeates all facets of the person, even his corporeal body to the extent that he surrenders his body to G‑d. Thus, through the binding, Isaac became entirely holy. Even the material aspects of his life were so subservient to holiness that their materialism was not apparent - they were seen purely as instruments for the service of G‑d. (See Likutei Sichot 25:135).]

Now And Then

The era following the revelation at Sinai is one of "returning". At Sinai we were given the capacity to draw holiness into the physical; however, the physical remains lowly. In the Messianic era, the world will experience "running", we will be elevated from our lowliness and brought close to our Source. The Messianic era is therefore described as a time when "they will go into the caves in the rocks…because of the fear of G‑d and the splendor of His majesty." (Isaiah 2:18) This is a description of the intense awe and humility that we will feel as result of the closeness we will then experience. Isaac is…the Patriarch most associated with the Messianic era…

Thus Isaac, whose thrust is closeness to the Divine - as opposed Abraham's bringing the Divine to earth - epitomizes selflessness and awe in the face of the Creator. [Jacob refers to G‑d as the "G‑d of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac" (Gen. 31:42).] Isaac is therefore the Patriarch most associated with the Messianic era - "then they will say to Isaac, you are our father." (Isaiah 63:16. Shabbat 89b)

Isaac's Wells

This explains why the wells of Isaac, unlike those of Abraham, were not blocked up by the Philistines. Since Abraham's service takes place from afar, his accomplishments are susceptible to corruption. The accomplishments of Isaac, however, contain no trace of self and are therefore invulnerable to the advances of darkness.

Based on Torah Ohr of R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Toldot, and Sefer Hamaamarim 5698 p. 129

Copyright 2003 by All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.