My father once explained the character of the biblical Isaac by citing Abraham Mendelssohn. He was a successful banker whose father was the great philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and whose son was the great composer Felix Mendelssohn. Late in life he lamented, “The first half of my life I was the son of my father; the second half of my life I was the father of my son.”
Isaac was the son of Abraham, founder of the Jewish faith, and father of Jacob, source of the Twelve Tribes. But Isaac had his own special virtues. He re-dug the wells of his father, solidifying Abraham’s legacy. And he is the only one of the patriarchs who never left the land of Israel.
As the High Holidays approach, we often think of the heroic virtues and the dramatic gesture. But a good life can be an Isaac-life. Isaac made sure the preciousness of the past was not lost and the values of the present were preserved. In his most dramatic moment, he went willingly to the altar with Abraham, full of the trust of someone who knows that faith and life often require calm, trust and steadiness. May this year help us recover our inner Isaac.