Toldos – Unwavering Dedication to Mesorah

In this week’s Torah Portion of Toldos, Yitzchak is found in Gerar due to another famine in the Land of Canaan. Yitzchak became very wealthy when in Gerar and the Torah relates, “And he had possessions of sheep and possessions of cattle and much production, and the Philistines envied him. And all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Avraham his father the Philistines stopped them up and filled them with earth. And Avimelech said to Yitzchak, ‘Go away from us, for you have become much stronger than we.’ And Yitzchak went away from there, and he encamped in the valley of Gerar and dwelt there. And Yitzchak again dug the wells of water which they had dug in the days of his father, Avraham, and the Philistines had stopped them up after Avraham’s death; and he gave them names like the names that his father had given them” (Breishis 26:14-18).
Rabbeinu Bachye elaborates on this episode. “The Torah is telling us that because of the jealousy the Plishtim felt they should close up the wells that were dug in the days of Avraham, his father, in order so that Yitzchak can’t make use of them for his crops and flock to drink. Yitzchak wound up overtaking them and digging up the wells and called them by the same names as his father. He did this in honor of his father. The fact that the Torah mentioned this seems to mean it was a merit to Yitzchak. There is inspiration to be learned from here and all the more so that one should not go against the ways of his forefathers. For we see that Yitzchak didn’t even want to change the names of the wells of his father all the more so one should follow the path of his forefathers, their customs and their mussar, (morality). And perhaps for this reason his name was not changed as our other forefathers, which was measure for measure. This is the explanation of the Gaon zt”l.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
 We see from here that Yitzchak was so meticulous with following the ways of his father that even the wells that he had uncovered from when his father had first dug them were renamed the same names as his father had named them.
This was a gesture of respect for his father, to name the wells by the names his father had called them. Yet couldn’t he have shown his father even more respect by, let’s say renaming the wells after the many positive traits of his father, or something of the like, which would seemingly have been a greater honor to the memory of his father? What would have been the big deal if Yitzchak had changed the names of the wells?

It would seem that using the names his father had given to the wells is a greater honor to his father than naming them after his father. There also seems to be a connection to doing this simple act and the much broader picture of following his father’s morals and ways of life. This seems to be because adherence to tradition, to mesorah, in even the simplest of acts, reinforces our commitment to the ways of one’s parents and forefathers. Changing from these ways, as opposed to adaptation which might be needed at times, even if the change might seem  better, is a breech in the system of mesorah, which most definitely would lead to further excuses to change and possibly even eventual complete break away from the proper ways and customs of one’s family, religion and proper morals.

 Because of Yitzchak’s meticulous adherence to his family and their mesorah, measure for measure Hashem rewarded him with not needing to change his name.