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    Isaac in the middle – Tol’dot

    The three patriarchs go together.

    Isaac, from a 1906 Bible card

    Isaac, from a 1906 Bible card

    Their names – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – form the triumvirate on which Jewish history is founded. The Amidah opens by calling on the Almighty as “the God Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob”.

    But the three are quite different from each other. The dynamic ones are Abraham and Jacob, whilst Isaac, the one in the middle, is rather quiet and unassertive.

    Even in the Akedah, where his life is at stake, he seems quite lacking in colour and spunk, and the story focusses on his father more than himself.

    It doesn’t seem fair. It can’t be that Judaism deliberately downplayed him. This really is what he was – a man in the middle who went along with what happened.

    One is reminded of a British prime minister who, when asked what gave him a high place in the leadership stakes, simply said it was because of events.

    Applying that criterion to Isaac, let’s ask why he figures so greatly in the Jewish leadership lists, and the answer may be the same, “Events, my boy, events!”

    Yet the events that propelled Isaac into Jewish destiny are not nearly as passive as we might think.

    Not everyone is or needs to be a great visionary like Abraham or a great builder like Jacob. We need the man in the middle, the Isaac who is the continuator of the tradition.

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