Dedicated to my dear son Zecharya on the occasion of his Aufruf and his upcoming marriage to Tami Elishkevitz
“And the two of them went together”
The Midrash informs us that Avrohom and Yitzchok strode toward the Akeidah with the same joy and excitement as when a father accompanies his son to the chuppah.
Is the equating of the Akeidah to a chuppah merely a metaphor for a moment of exquisite happiness, or is there a deeper connection between these two events?
We are also told that right after the Akeidah Avraham became aware that Rivkah, the bashert of Yitzchok, was just born. Why is this so significant to mention precisely here?
The Holy Kotzker suggests that subsequent to the Akeidah Avraham had begun to wonder whether his being prevented by the angel from slaughtering Yitzchok might have been due to his failure to have married off Yitzchok earlier, and not allowing him to beget children. Were Yitzchok to have fathered progeny who would carry his legacy, perhaps, Avraham thought, G-d might have allowed him to fulfill the command to actually slaughter him. When he discovered that a worthy child was born to his family that would be a wife to Yitzchok he was placated, since he now realized that his previous doubt was unjustified, as it was clearly destined for Yitzchok to wait until Rivkah would be born and eventually become his wife.
The Midrash indeed states that it was from Mount Moriah, the location of the Akeidah and eventually the Holy Temple that ‘Rivkah went forth’.
What aspect within the accomplishments of the Akeidah is so critical to meriting a wife and marriage?
Why did Avraham first ponder his doubts after the Akeidah and not at the moment he was told to slaughter Yitzchok?
One of the illustrious disciples of the renowned, pre-war, Yeshiva of Chachmei Lublin, Rav Mordechai Yehuda Lubart, offers a fascinating idea to answer this question that will shed light on our previous queries.
When a Jew is faced with a directive from G-d, no matter how preposterous and confounding it may seem, it is incumbent to respond unquestionably in the spirit of נעשה ונשמע, doing first and then to later contemplate its meaning and understanding. There was nothing more contradictory to a notion of a benevolent Creator than the command to sacrifice one’s own child. Not only did it go against any idea of morality it also defied all the promises that were made to Avraham that from him would descend the Jewish nation. But this is the credo of our people, to submit ourselves fully to His will even in the face of the inexplicable.
Only later did Avraham permit himself to doubt his former inaction in seeking a wife for Yitzchok and only in the context of determining whether he had perhaps failed in his duty to properly carry out the will G-d.
His entire life was about forging ahead despite not knowing the destination, quashing the instinct to question the will of G-d. Whether it was ‘Go for yourself... to the land I will show you’ or ‘Go to the land of Moriah...’, and his the ability to put aside his intellect, preconceived notions and emotions to focus solely on the task he was entrusted with. This was the legacy Avraham sought to impart to us, his children that would become part of the very fiber of our souls.
This, Rav Lubart adds, is the essence of the command to circumcise a Jewish child yet before he is even capable of fathoming, let alone choose, to undergo Milah. It is what distinguishes the ‘choice’ of the descendants of Yishmael who are to circumcise from the age of thirteen and our mitzvah to perform it on an eight day old child.
Yishmael challenges Yitzchok’s favored status, by claiming that he, Yishmael, bravely elected to be circumcised at the age of thirteen while Yitzchok had no choice in the matter. Yitzchok responds that were G-d to ask of him to submit to being slaughtered he wouldn’t protest. Yitzchok wasn’t merely upping the ante. What Yitzchok was conveying was the reality that the true bearers of Avrahams’s legacy could translate that innate talent to unquestionably submit to the will of G-d, to all realms of life even to the extent of forfeiting their lives.
He goes on to answer a famous question on the prayer we recite at every child’s Bris: כשם שנכנס לברית כן יכנס לתורה ולחופה ולמעשים טובים, Just as he has entered the covenant so may he enter into Torah, the marriage canopy, and good deeds.
It would seem that after beginning to learn Torah from the age of five, the next stage would logically be ‘good deeds’ as a child becomes responsible at the age of thirteen to perform mitzvos and only after that would it be appropriate to address our hopes that he merit to stand beneath the chuppah some time after becoming eighteen. Why then do we misplace the hopes for his happy marriage immediately after the goal of learning Torah?
He writes, “Truthfully, marriage is also an aspect of ‘do first, ask later’. When a Jew stands under the canopy to fulfill the requirement of his Creator; accepting upon himself the yoke of building a Jewish home; not knowing how that life he is accepting upon himself will look and pan out; without worrying how the future will turn out, is all an expression of this noble skill. That is why our Rabbis tell us that whoever causes a groom to rejoice will merit Torah, because one who encourages a groom in his undertaking to negate his will before that of G-d, through the strength of faith, joy and kindheartedness, assisting the groom in his quest to attain a life of ‘do and then hear’, will in turn merit to grow in Torah of which “do and then hear’ is a prerequisite for success. That is why we place the attainment of Torah adjacent to the realization of standing beneath the marriage canopy, since they are both expressions of this quality of נעשה ונשמע, ‘do and then hear’.”
The great Maharsha interprets the blessing at the marriage ceremony that concludes with the sentiment: Blessed are You, G-d, מקדש עמו ישראל על ידי חופה וקידושין, Who sanctifies His people Israel through canopy and marriage, to be referring to G-d having sanctified his nation on Mount Sinai, where the mountain hovered over our heads like a canopy, and He gave us the Two Tablets, the Torah, which was the equivalent of the ring the groom gives to the bride to take her hand in marriage. We mention G-d’s giving of the Torah to His nation at every marriage to emphasize the requirement of נעשה ונשמע, adherence before comprehension, which is so integral to the success of both.
Yitzchok and Rivkah we are told served as the tikkun for the failure of Adam and Chava, in achieving a ‘perfect’ marriage and unblemished relationship. Though they differed greatly in their approaches towards their common children, Yaakov and Esav, nevertheless there is nary any discord reported between them. They are the only couple in all of Torah who are depicted as מצחק, enjoying each other’s company. The first expression of love for a spouse is that of Yitzchok for Rivkah.
No wonder. They each excelled in submitting their will totally before that of the will of the Creator, leaving no room for conflict, accusation nor distance. In a world where the will of G-d is the sole compass for direction in life, happiness, devotion and harmony is the natural byproduct of that healthy and noble attitude.
After the Akeidah, G-d promises Avraham, הרבה ארבה את זרעך, that He will greatly increase his offspring. The word ארבה, increase, is numerically equivalent to יצחק, 208. The number of words in the portion of the Akeidah, 307 equal the value of רבקה!(אוצרות התורה וירא)
The message is clear. If one wants to attain marital bliss and general happiness in life they must inculcate the lesson of the Akeidah.
In the Selichos of the Bnei Ashkenaz, it states: עלץ הבן בקרבנו כבחתנות אפיריונו, The son (Yitzchok) rejoiced in his sacrifice like on the day of marriage when one stands beneath his canopy.
We must ‘sacrifice’ our will upon the Altar of G-d’s directives so that we may attain true joy.
When we are ready to firmly tie and knot our will, desires and interests to the will of G-d, we are assured that we are ‘bound’ to be happy!