Don’t be a Trailblazer

July 2, 2024

I have always loved the name Isaac. My son’s middle name is Isaac, Yitzchak in Hebrew. In Jewish tradition, we often name our children after someone who died or came before us. And my son is named after my own great-grandfather. But as much as I love the English name Isaac and loved the stories of my great grandfather, his sense of humor, and his love and his care for his family, I was always ambivalent about the Biblical character Isaac. Let me be clear: I’ve always been proud of my son’s name. Sharing a name not only with my great-grandfather, but with one of the forefathers is an incredible merit! But at the same time, I never really connected with the character ‘Isaac’ as deeply as I have with other Biblical heroes. And because of that – I’ve always felt a bit funny about my son’s middle name. But all of this changed after I listened to the Isaac and Rebecca Mini Series as part of Israel 365 Plus. Let me explain. 

Rabbi Elie Mischel recently taught a mini-series course as part of the Israel Bible Academy called “Isaac and Rebecca.” I’ve been working my way through the Israel Bible Academy Courses, and this one stood out to me. Specifically, as I am always searching for an opportunity to connect with Isaac—after all, he is part of my son’s name! 

Rabbi Elie opened up his course with a question: In history, we often celebrate the revolutionaries who change the world. But what about those who come after, who keep those changes alive? Their role is just as important, maybe even more so.

This is the story of Isaac, the second Jewish patriarch. His quiet strength helped monotheism survive in a world full of idol worship. Isaac’s tale shows us how revolutions become traditions, and how powerful it can be to nurture and sustain others’ visions.

When we think of biblical patriarchs, Abraham usually steals the show. He’s the revolutionary who heard God’s call and started a journey that changed history. Abraham was charismatic and attracted many followers. But charisma alone isn’t enough to make lasting change.

That’s where Isaac comes in. At first glance, Isaac’s story might seem boring compared to his father’s. He doesn’t travel the world or fight with kings. Instead, Isaac’s greatness lies in his commitment to keeping his father’s legacy alive.

Think about the wells Isaac dug. 

The Bible tells us he reopened wells his father had dug, which others had filled in after Abraham died. This simple act is deeply meaningful. Isaac understood that the spiritual ‘wells’ his father created – connections to God, ethical teachings, belief in one God – needed to be maintained.

Isaac chose to follow in his father’s footsteps instead of blazing his own trail. In a world that often celebrates being different and breaking from tradition, Isaac saw the value in continuity. He knew that for his father’s revolutionary ideas to really take root, they needed time to settle in and grow stronger.

This role of ‘continuer’ isn’t always appreciated. It’s not as exciting as starting a revolution. But without it, even the best ideas can fade away. Isaac’s dedication ensured that belief in one God would survive and grow, eventually becoming the foundation for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Rabbi Ellie’s beautiful take on the story of Isaac reminded me of a similar father son dynamic I had recently learned about. Eliad Ohayon was a young man from Ofakim Israel. His father was a community activist. Instead of rebelling or trying to make his own name, Eliad chose to follow his father’s path. He volunteered with sick children and people with disabilities, living out the spirit of service his father had taught.

Eliad didn’t just copy his father. He took those values and found new ways to use them. For example, he bought a big car not for himself but so he could help more people in wheelchairs. This small choice shows Eliad’s dedication to continuing and improving his father’s work.

Tragically, both Eliad and his father were Killed on October 7th as they fought side by side, father and son,  defending their community from Hamas terrorists. Their final acts showed the values they lived by – protecting others and standing up for what they believed in.

Isaac and Eliad’s stories remind me that greatness often lies not in doing something completely new, but in preserving and improving what’s already good and true. Their examples challenge us to think about the long-term impact of our choices and actions.

In our own lives, whether we’re keeping family traditions alive, preserving cultural heritage, or supporting important community work, we all have the chance to be like Isaac. By doing this, we make sure that the wisdom and compassion of those who came before us continues to nourish future generations.

As I learned more about Isaac through Rabbi Elie’s class, my perspective shifted. The Isaac I once saw as a passive figure in Abraham’s shadow emerged as a man of extraordinary inner strength and purpose.

I realized my initial doubts about the biblical Isaac came from misunderstanding his role. Far from being just a bridge between Abraham and Jacob, Isaac was the crucial link that turned an incredible idea into a long lasting tradition. His choice to continue his father’s work wasn’t a weakness but a show of remarkable strength and dedication.

Now, as a parent, I see Isaac’s story in a new light. He teaches us the value of continuity and building on the legacy we inherit. In naming my son Isaac, Yitzchak, I wasn’t just connecting him to my great-grandfather or an ancient biblical figure. I was giving him the potential to be a preserver of tradition, a nurturer of inherited wisdom, and a quiet force for good in the world.

Naming my son Yitzchak is something I’ve come to cherish. It’s a constant reminder of the power of dedication and the importance of honoring our heritage. I’ve given him more than a name. I’ve given him a legacy of strength, continuity, and the potential to make a lasting difference.

And for that, I’m deeply grateful.

This is a recap of part one of four of Rabbi Elie’s Mini-Series on Isaac and Rebecca. The mini series is part of Israel Bible Academy, an incredible resource you get when you sign up for Israel Bible Plus. You can access the entire series and more here!

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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