By Rabbi Alex Chapper
We might have thought that Yitzchak would be blessed by God on account of his tremendous spiritual achievements, supreme among them being his willingness to be sacrificed by his father Avraham. But as remarkably inspiring as they are, Divine approbation for his accomplishments is recorded in the Torah in relation to a seemingly more modest act. Forced by a local famine to relocate to Gerar, Yitzchak sows the land and in that year it yields an abundant harvest, which amounted to 100 times its estimated capacity.
Then we read: “And God blessed him.” This last statement seems to be a non sequitur. Surely Yitzchak was blessed by God first and that is why he enjoyed such a bumper crop? Why does the blessing follow the news of his agricultural success? Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that Yitzchak merited God’s blessing because of his actions. Having such a quantity of produce that was more than sufficient for his own needs, he did not hoard the excess but offered it for sale in the market places for the benefit of those who had been affected by that year’s famine.
It was this simple act of kindness that resulted in him being the one blessed by God. It is a powerful insight into God’s priorities. Although we might think that precedence would be given to the performance of precepts that display great religious fervour, it might just be that the more modest and unassuming consideration for our fellow human beings has greater worth. Yitzchak scaled the spiritual heights, he demonstrated his readiness to dedicate his life to the service of God and yet it was his thoughtfulness and altruism that brought him the greatest accolade. The Torah provides us with a clear message – it is being a blessing to others that makes us truly deserving of being blessed by God.
• Rabbi Alex Chapper is minister of Ilford Federation Synagogue and the Children’s Rabbi. Visit http://childrensrabbi.com