Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Lessons From the Aftermath of the Akeida
Immediately following akeidas Yitzchak the Torah tells us that Avraham rejoins those who had accompanied him on his journey to the akeida. There are two difficulties with this epilogue. First, there is no mention of Yitzchak returning, which leads us to wonder where he was after the akeida. Second, why is it significant that Avraham returns to those who initially traveled with him?
There are two important lessons that we learn from Avraham's return and Yitzchak's seeming lack of return. Chazal comment that Yitzchak did in fact not return home, but rather traveled to the yeshiva of Shem and Ever to study Torah. Why was the place of Torah study the next destination for Yitzchak after experiencing the akeida?
There are countless references in Tanach and Chazal to the relationship between the Beis HaMikdash and talmud Torah. The Mishkan, and later the Beis HaMikdash, housed the luchos which were the representation of the entire Torah. The Sanhedrin that embodies the mesorah sat in the Beis HaMikdash. Our tefillos at the end of every Shemoneh Esrei conclude with the words "May You rebuild the Beis HaMikdash and grant us our share in Your Torah." Echoing the words of Yeshayahu, "From Tzion will come forth Torah and Hashem's word from Yerushalayim," the Rambam in the end of Hilchos Melachim describes the days of Moshiach as being a time of unprecedented Torah study. "The world will be full of knowledge of Hashem", as prophesized by Yeshayahu, and this will accompany the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.
The connection between Torah study and Mikdash reflects the basic nature of both. The purpose of the Mikdash is to enable the Shechina to dwell in our midst. It is precisely this Divine Presence that is also an essential component of talmud Torah. Chazal teach us that anytime and anyplace that Torah is studied, Hashem's Presence is there. At the conclusion of the akeida the future location of the Beis HaMikdash was designated. Although not physically offered as a korban, Yitzchak had been consecrated as one. As such, he had to maintain a level of sanctity befitting a korban. Yitzchak was therefore searching for a location where he could continue to bask in Hashem's Presence, and there was no greater place to do so than the yeshiva of Shem and Eiver.
Yitzchak's actions following the akeida speak to every one of us this time of the year. We all experienced the Divine Presence during the recent yomim tovim. Although we did not yet merit the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash, we did come closer to Hashem during the Yomim Noraim and Succos season. Now that the month of Tishrei and its great spirituality is behind us, where do we go to maintain the proximity to Hashem's Presence that we attained during that period? Yitzchak's behavior is very instructive. The only way to continue our relationship with Hashem is through the vehicle of Torah study. We go back to the beis medresh and thereby reinforce everything we accomplished in the "House of Hashem" during the yomim tovim.
Avraham's actions following the akeida also contain a critical lesson for us, particularly following the great spiritual heights of the past month. Although Avraham had just passed the monumental test of the akeida, he did not display any haughtiness toward others who had not done so. He accompanied his fellow travelers without drawing attention to his great accomplishments.
We daven that Hashem should remove the Satan from in front of us and from behind us - "v'hoseir Satan milifneinu u'm'l'achareinu". The Chofetz Chaim explained this phrase to refer to the two challenges that we face as we try to attain spiritual heights. There are obstacles we must overcome that can prevent us from attaining greatness in Torah and avodas Hashem. After we succeed, we are faced with another challenge: we may become arrogant about our accomplishments and look down at those around us. We therefore beseech Hashem to help us follow the example of Avraham who was able to return from the akeida without the feeling of arrogance notwithstanding his great accomplishments. We should be proud of what we accomplished during the month of Tishrei. Yet, this should never result in an arrogance that causes us to look down at others. As the yom tov season is behind us, let us rededicate ourselves to talmud Torah in a spirit of humility befitting the descendants of Avraham and Yitzchak.