Why Yitzchak and not Avraham? Surely, Yaakov Avinu remembered his zayde, grandfather, the Patriarch of the family. Rashi comments that Yaakov underscored the idea that a son owes more to his father than to his grandfather. The other commentators focus on the middah, attribute, of Yitzchak, which Yaakov felt would benefit his descendants most as they were about to commence the bitter Egyptian exile – which would lead to the next exiles, until the Final Redemption at the End of Days. Horav Shlomo Freifeld, zl, explains Yaakov’s actions as a lesson to his descendants about how to live a Torah life despite the vicissitudes of the bitter exile.
Chazal question Yaakov’s actions. They, too, want to know why the focus was on Yitzchak, when, in fact, the father of our nation was Yaakov’s grandfather. Among the explanations that the Midrash gives is the notion that: Ro’im afro shel Yitzchak k’ilu tzavur al gabi ha’Mizbayach, “We view the ashes of Yitzchak Avinu as if they are piled upon the Mizbayach, Altar.” The Rosh Yeshivah explains that when we look at the story of Akeidas Yitzchak, we do not view the incident through conventional three-dimensional perspective. This would present to us an image of Avraham replacing Yitzchak with the ram, and then slaughtering the ram instead of Yitzchak. Chazal teach that we should view this incident through the lens of nitzchiyus, eternity, during which Yitzchak was slaughtered, sacrificed, and now his ashes lay piled on the Mizbayach to serve as a z’chus, merit, for Klal Yisrael. While this is inspiring and uplifting, it does not explain the connection between afro shel Yitzchak and Yaakov’s choice to offer his sacrifices solely to the G-d of his father, Yitzchak.
Rav Freifeld explains this after first distinguishing between the manner in which the nations/peoples of the world react to being exiled and the manner in which Klal Yisrael responds to its pressures and challenges – both physical and spiritual. Probably without exception, every nation which has been forced into exile has ceased to exist, as a result of it becoming swallowed up by the surrounding culture. The host nation has absorbed its language, customs and traditions. After a century (more or less), the original nation is no longer extant, almost as if it had never existed. The one exception to this phenomena is Klal Yisrael, who has experienced galus, exile after exile, and has managed to retain its identity.
Yaakov Avinu was acutely aware that he was descending into the bitter Egyptian galus – the forerunner of other exiles to follow during our tumultuous history. Titein emes l’Yaakov; “Give truth to Yaakov”: Our Patriarch’s attribute of absolute truth was in danger. How would it survive galus? It was in response to this question that Yaakov focused on afro shel Yitzchak. He was, by his actions, imparting a powerful lesson to his descendants: Galus cannot be confronted by means of a three dimensional perspective on reality. Survival in galus is possible only when we look through nitzchiyus vision – a vision that penetrates past the three-dimensional world with its ambiguities and illusions. Yaakov knew that only by strengthening his relationship with emes, absolute truth, which is nitzchiyus, would he survive galus.
The Rosh Yeshivah notes that Torah in America was established by those who adhered to emes. They ignored the conditions, they did not listen to the naysayers; they did not worry about their own co-religionists’ fear of shaking up the status-quo. They looked with emes when everyone else looked through the conventional, three-dimensional prism. People made jest of Horav Aharon Kotler, zl, and his plan to establish a kollel, learning center for married men. They were wrong, because Rav Aharon focused on emes, and a world without Torah is sheker, false. When one works with emes, he has no deterrents, no conditions, and no compromises. It is either absolute truth or it is totally false.