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Thought for the Day: The Avos and the Three Festivals

I got to my regular spot on Shavuos night and sat down to learn.  A shiur was just starting, but I sat away because I find it difficult to stay up all night unless I am fully engaged.  Sitting passively and listening is a recipe for nodding off to sleepy time.  However, as the magid shiur -- R' Moshe Soloveitchik -- started speaking, I found myself becoming engaged; turning to hear another bomb question, then turning back to my sefer, then back to the shiur... finally I just turned my chair to listen.  A good shiur not only poses good questions, but also evokes even more questions in the listener.  I was fully engaged and -- though I sat silently -- we were learning b'chavrusa.

Chazal tell us that each of the shalosh regalim/three festivals correspond to one of the Avos: Pesach to Avraham, Shavuos to Yitzchak, and Sukkos to Yaakov.  Both Pesach and Sukkos have symbols and fanfare.  Shavuos doesn't even have its own date on the calendar.  Correspondingly, there are epic stories of Avraham Avinu and Yaakov Avinu, while we have barely a few words from Yitzchak Avinu.  Even the monumental Akeidas Yitchak is seen as the greatest of Avraham Avinu's ten tests; Yitchak Avinu, on the other hand, seems to have a supporting role at best.

At the end of the Tochacha (Vayikra 26:42), HaShem comforts us: I will remember my covenant with Yaakov, and even my covenant with Yitzchak, and even my covenant with Avraham I will remember; and I will remember the land.  Chazal note that the word zachor/remember is used in conjunction with Yaakov, Avraham, and even the land; but not with Yitzchak.  Yitzchak doesn't need to be remembered -- his ashes are directly under the kisei ha'kavod/the juncture between heaven and earth.

You don't need to remember something that is part of you.  You need a memorial for something that is separate from you and to which you aspire.  Avraham Avinu tore himself away from his historic roots and lived up to the ideal he had discovered.  Yaakov Avinu takes his identity and works in the world, all the time keeping himself true to his ideals.  We need constant review of the events of their lives and the manner in which they conducted themselves to strive for that kind of greatness.

Yitzchak Avninu is moser nefesh; he gives his whole life -- body and soul -- to his ideals.  Jews through the ages are known to outstanding in the every area of public service and noble causes.  That lesson has, apparently, been so incorporated into the Jewish soul that the Torah did not need to record as many events of our exalted ancestor.  Likewise, the world today since the dawning of of Torah age with Matan Torah is a different place than it was before.  The values of the Torah are so much taken for granted that those who are not constantly steeped in it's learning don't even realize that there is any other way of life.

We should only be successful this year in bring Torah so much more into the world that everything comes together and we together herald in the days of the mashiach tzidkeinu, bi'm'heira v'yameinu.

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