This was my very first musing on parashat Toldot, written back in 1998. I thought it was due for a revisit after 19 years. No major changes, just a few edits and edge-smoothing – it still speaks for itself.
Random Musing Before Shabbat – Toldot 5778 – Like Father Like Son
Like father like son.
It wasn’t enough that Abraham lied to “protect his wife.” Isaac had to do it too. And probably with the same King his father tried to fool. It seems, however, that Isaac is not to be honored and taken care of like his father. For this time, in this version of the thrice-repeated Torah tale) it is not G”d that exposes the lie. It is Isaac’s own carelessness, foolish enough to be caught fondling his wife where Abimelech could see them! (Now one could argue that G”d made Isaac deliberately stupid-or excessively horny, but to me that seems unlikely.)
Like father, like son.
Isaac redug the wells at Gerar that had once been his father’s. He named them with the same names his father had given them. Surely a symbolic act in many ways. Isaac drinking from his father’s wells, carrying on the family traditions. Isaac restoring the good name of his father to these wells, a name taken away when they were stopped up after Abraham’s death. Isaac drinking from the same spiritual source as his father.
Do the stopped up wells perhaps represent Isaac’s estrangement from his father after what happened in Moriah? And is Isaac’s restoring them symbolic of some level of posthumous reconciliation?
Isaac then tried digging some new wells in the same general area, only to have the water rights disputed by local herdsmen. So he moved away to a location nearby and tried again-this time successfully. It is only after all these things that G”d finally speaks and tells Isaac him that G”d is with him.
So Isaac had to both recognize his father, and establish his own identity before G”d would speak to him and remind Isaac that G”d intended to fulfill the promise to Abraham-and that Isaac was an instrument in this.
Much is made of how Isaac seems so insignificant when compared to his father and his younger son. In these simple acts Isaac fulfilled his purpose. To be the son of Abraham. To be the father of Jacob.
Surely there are lessons to be gleaned from this.
We can’t all be an Abraham, a Jacob, a Joseph, a Moses. Some of us are meant to be Isaacs. To be that link that maintains continuity in an ever changing universe. It is never an easy role, and not a glorious one. Sometimes this link in the chain bears difficult burdens. But its reward should be clear to each of us today. For were it not for Isaac, we would, none of us, be here today. Though he was not sacrificed to G”d by his father, Isaac gave the ultimate sacrifice-himself-the entirety of his long life-so that the line of Abraham could be carried on and G”d’s promises fulfilled.
This Shabbat, dig up a few of your ancestor’s wells. Start a few new ones of your own. Perhaps then you too will be ready for G”d to talk to you.
©2017 (portions © 1998) by Adrian A. Durlester
Tol’dot 5776 – Still a Bother
Toldot 5775 – Esau’s Plan
Tol’dot/Makhar Hodesh 5774 – Drops That Sparkle
Tol’dot 5773 – More Teleology
Tol’dot 5771 – Keeping the Bathwater
Toldot 5769 – There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This
Toldot 5768 – Alternate Histories, Alternate Shmistories
Toldot 5767-They Also Serve…
Toldot 5765-Purposeless Fire
Toledot 5764-What a Bother!
Toledot 5763-Not Sticking in The Knife
Toledot 5762-Winners and Losers
Toledot 5761-Is This All There Is?
Toledot 5758-Like Father, Like Son