Parshat Toldos 5781: Yitzchak — the First Sabra!

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Toldos is being sponsored by Ben and Gina Fishman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for the birth of their Grandson Elazar Menachem to their children Nechemya and Shoshana Fishman. To the Fishman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Toldos 5781: Yitzchak — the First Sabra!

by Moshe Burt

We will segue into Parshat Toldos with a part of Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s commentary in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text”, Volume One, Sefer Breish’t regarding Yitzchak which was excerpted in last week’s vort on Parshat Chayei Sarah (pages 107-110):

As Avraham’s life draws near its end, he turns to his trusted servant, Eliezer, and instructs him to return to his homeland, Aram Naharaim, in order to find a wife for Yitzchak. He specifies that he does not want Yitzchak to marry a woman from the Canaanite nations…(Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 24, posukim 1-9) …. Padan Aram, mentioned in the text as the birthplace of Rivka and the home of her extended family, (ibid, Perek 25, posuk 20) refers to a specific region within Aram Naharaim.

Beneath the surface… lies an… important narrative: Avraham’s dramatic negotiation for self-definition as a ger v’toshav, a stranger and a citizen.

Avraham, through this two-word phrase [ger v’toshav], not only describes himself but also delineates the place his descendants will take in society throughout the ages. To survive and succeed the Jew must be both a stranger and a citizen in any country where he lives, participating in the culture which surrounds him while maintaining his own unique identity.

Having arrived at his own self-definition, perhaps Avraham… begins to fear [for the future]: “… I began in this land as a stranger. I came from a foreign land, and have always been able to maintain my distance from those within Canaan. Yitzchak, however, is different. My son was born here. He is too close to those around him. He is familiar only with this culture, with this population and with this land. How do I know that he will learn to discern the dangers that surround him…. that he will be able to distance himself from the elements of society counterproductive to his spiritual development? How do I know that he will maintain the appropriate balance and truly be a ger v’toshav?”

Avraham then sets about guaranteeing the continuation of his legacy…. Yitzchak’s wife will, it is to be hoped, be able to see herself as a ger v’toshav. She will begin with a natural distance from the Canaanites surrounding her. Given her foreign background, she will have a head start in maintaining the perspective needed to discern and confront the dangers around them.

Rabbi Goldin now continues (ibid. page 110):

In short, Avraham does have a deep ulterior motive for sending Eliezer back to his birthplace [Aram Naharaim] to find a wife for Yitzchak. The Patriarch hopes that his son’s wife will ensure the survival of the Jews by maintaining the delicate balance of self-definition that he, himself has achieved.

To this author, Avraham’s efforts to guarantee the continuation of his legacy by insuring that Yitzchak’s wife would be someone who would see to the survival of future generations of Jews by maintaining a distance from elements of possible counter-productive societal tendencies among an indigenous population which could undermine spiritual growth seems a lesson for the generations throughout our history through today.

As we begin to learn our Parshat Toldos, Rabbi Goldin notes (ibid, Parshat Toldos, pages 126-130):

“The first phrase of Parshat Toldos reads as follows: “These are the generations of Yitzchak, the son of Avraham: Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 24, posuk 19)

At first glance, the text seems not only redundant, but unnecessary. We already know that Yitzchak was Avraham’s son.

Who was Yitzchak? In so many way, the answer is that he was his father’s son. This relationship defined Yitzchak’s life and behavior.

As powerful as Avraham’s influence on his son may be, there are clear textual indications that Yitzchak would emerge from behind his father’s shadow.

The Torah discusses in detail the wells of water that Yitzchak digs. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 26, posukim 15-26). Some scholars accept this narrative on the level of pashut phshat [simple understanding] (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t. Perek 26:15, Rashbam on Breish’t, Perek 26, posukim 15-18) The text, they say, is describing the difficult effort of developing actual sources of water in Cana’an. Others suggest that the wells be understood on Midrashic fashion. Water, they say, is often used as a symbol of tradition in Judaism. The wells dug by both Avraham and Yitzchak refer to aspects of that tradition. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah, Sefer Breish’t 64:8, Ramban on Breish’t, Perek 26, posuk 20)

Yitzchak’s personal struggles for self-definition become even more significant when seen against the backdrop of his unique place in our history.

Yitzchak is the first Hebrew child. He is, therefore, the first individual within our history to face the challenge of preserving the Mesorah (tradition in Judaism). This challenge begins with the two steps of receiving and transmitting.

Yitzchak, unlike Avraham, receives his Divine Instruction not only from Hashem, but from his parents. He must respect and absorb what his parents teach, often a considerable challenge.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, pages 129-130):

Yitzchak’s efforts to define his own identity acquire greater urgency when seen in the light of his unique place at the head of the chain of our tradition. If the process of Mesorah is to fully take root, the second Patriarch cannot simply be a carbon copy of his father. He must actively determine and make his own contribution to upholding the saga of his people. In this way, he sets the stage for generations of Jews to follow, each of whom will be challenged to receive a tradition from their parents, make it their own, and pass it down to their children.

We return to follow Rabbi Goldin’s train of thought regarding the perpetuation of Avraham Aveinu’s legacy (ibid, page 110)

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that as the story of the second patriarchal generation unfolds, Rivka emerges as the more perceptive parent. She alone sees their two children, Yaakov and Esav, for who they really are, and she alone acts with strength to perpetuate Avraham’s legacy through Yaakov. (Rav Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t , Perek 27, posukim 1-46)

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free, as Naama Issachar is now free and home — which can only occur when Jonathan is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chodesh Tov and Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.