Tol’dot (Records)

Genesis 25:19 to 28:9

Second Generation


Isaac and Rebekah represent the Second Generation. Many commentators feel Isaac is only a link between Abraham and Jacob. However, given that Isaac and his wife keep the faith alive to pass on to the next generation, they both are important.

Following are the opening words of this parsha: “This is the line of Isaac son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was 40 years old when he took as his wife Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean.” (Gen. 25:19-20) Then the story goes in two directions…. The story of the children of Isaac and Rebekah, Esau and Jacob….. And, Isaac’s travels with his wife to Gerar….. Most of the focus seems to be on the children.

The memorable incidents in the parsha include the selling of Esau’s birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew…. And how, with the help of Rebekah, Jacob steals his father’s deathbed blessing from Esau. The life stories of Isaac seemed to be placed in the background. Some say that Isaac was nothing more than a connection between Abraham and Jacob. Only thirty-three verses of this week’s text are devoted to the parts of Isaac’s life that doesn’t include his children.

However, I see Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, as major characters in our Jewish history.

Starting with Isaac’s name ….. translated it means “he laughed.” But what does he have to laugh at? …. Maybe he’s laughing just because he is a survivor ….. Maybe because, in the end, he is successful in marriage and business ….. Maybe because he, not his older brother, becomes a patriarch of Israel.

The most significant event in Isaac’s his life was told in the text two week’s ago… the Akedah. Abraham is about to carry out the command of God to sacrifice his son. But, at the last moment an angel spares Isaac. The two depart down Mt. Moriah – separately… never to speak to each other again…. This had to have enormous effect on Isaac.

Then, upon returning to his home, he discovers his beloved mother, Sarah, has died. The only hint at Isaac’s feelings come from the lines at the end of Chayei Sarah: “And Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah; he took Rebekah, and she became his wife and he loved her. Thus did Isaac take comfort after [the death of] his mother.” (Gen. 24:67)

One would think that Isaac would turn away from his father’s beliefs. But the opposite seems to be true. Isaac’s life seems to be a copy of his father’s.

– Isaac’s sons come late in life.
– The two sons don’t get along together.
–  Isaac travels and finds his life in danger. He states that his wife is his sister.
– God makes a covenant with Isaac… as he did with Abraham.
– Isaac re-digs the wells of his father.
– His wife becomes a dominant person in Torah
– His younger son gets a wife from the ancestral family

With the Akedah in Isaac’s past, one would think that he would take the opposite choices in life as his father. But, in fact, as shown above, in many ways his life mirrors Abraham’s. And, even more significant, Isaac followed his father’s spiritual concepts.

Then the similarities also extend to the wives…. Sarah chooses Isaac over Ishmael… even though Ishmael is older. Rebekah chooses the younger son, Isaac, over Esau. Both Ishmael and Esau become estranged from their families. Both Isaac and Jacob follow in the traditions and belief of their parents and marry from Abraham’s family. This fact that Isaac and Rebekah continue the faith in God is reason enough to praise them. So many ventures die with the first generation. It takes real effort on the part of a second generation to carry concepts forward. Maybe, as some say, Isaac just followed the lead of his father and mother. This kept the ideas of Abraham alive during this significant second generation. For this, I feel Isaac and Rebekah deserve praise.

Earl Sabes

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