Friday, November 14, 2014

Parsha: Why Did Yitzchak Go Outside? Peshat and Derash

Rav Turetsky

The pasuk (Bresihit 24:63) states that Yitzchak went out to the field towards evening "לשוח בשדה". The verb שיחה has several possible meanings, so it is not entirely clear within the pesukim why Yitzchak went outside or what exactly he went to do. This leads to several interpretations in the Mefarshim,[1] each with important implications for one’s Avodat Hashem.

  1. Rashi (ad loc) cites Chazal’s explanation (Brachot 26b) that Yitzchak went outside to daven Mincha. Based on this, Chazal attribute to him the original institution of Mincha.[2]  For Chazal, Yitzchak’s actions had clear spiritual motivations. He went out to pray to Hashem and establish for perpetuity the prayer of Mincha.The Mincha prayer has unique significance. The Talmud (Brachot 6b) quotes Rav Huna’s statement that one should be particularly careful with Mincha, as Eliyahu was only answered through his Mincha prayer. While various suggestions are offered as to why Mincha is so unique, that it takes place during the middle of a busy day is certainly important. Though one is engrossed in various work pursuits, it is helpful to have a time in the middle of one’s day to reflect and pray to God.
  2. Ramban (Breishit 24:62) explains that according to the Peshat of the pasuk, Yitzchak went outside to speak to his friends and loved ones. At first glance, this view understands that Yitzchak’s action was not spiritual in nature, as much as social. Yet, the Torah’s recording this apparently mundane activity may highlight the Torah’s perspective on social interactions. Even Yitzchak, the figure associated with Gevura and inward strength, benefited and enjoyed social interactions. Part of religious man’s existence may be a need to interact with others in a positive fashion, not to just remain alone and focus narrowly on one’s own spiritual pursuits.
  3. Rabbainu Bechai (Breishit 24:63) suggests an additional understanding of the peshat of the pasuk. Yitzchak went out for an enjoyable walk in the field. Similar to Ramban, this is not at first glance a spiritual act, but one may be able to detect important religious significance to Yitzchak’s actions. Engagement with the world, and in particular exposure to the beauty of God’s creations, have the potential to enhance one’s religious life. As Rambam and others have noted, appreciating God’s creations can be an important element of one’s relationship to the Divine.

May we learn from the actions of Yitzchak!

Shabbat Shalom!   

[1] See Rashbam (ad loc).
[2] There is some evidence Avraham had davened Mincha before Yitzchak. See Talmud (Yoma ???) and Tosafot Yesanim (ad loc).

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