TOLDOS (Genesis, 25:19-28:9) — “Like Father, Like Son”

Last week’s Torah Portion ended with a record of the genealogy of Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael:

These are the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, bore to Abraham.  These are the names of the sons of Ishmael…  (Genesis, 25:12-13)

 This week’s Portion, logically, continues by telling us the genealogy of Abraham’s second son:

And these are the descendants of Isaac, son of Abraham… (Ibid, verse 19)

So far, both family trees start off the same.  However, the Torah continues with a different statement:

…Abraham was the father of Isaac. (Ibid)

The commentaries are bothered by this apparently redundant statement. And these are the descendants of Isaac, son of Abraham.  Abraham was the father of Isaac.  Didn’t we just read that he is Isaac, son of Abraham?  Why is there a need to follow up by telling us that Abraham was the father of Isaac?

Many of the commentaries quote from the Talmud that this was a response to the cynics of that generation.  Abraham had been married to Sarah for decades without children.  Then she was abducted for a short time by Abimelech, the Philistine king.  A short time later, Sarah was pregnant.  It didn’t take much for the “Yentahs” in the neighborhood to start spreading nasty rumors as to the paternity of Isaac.

In order to stop the rumors, G-d formed Isaac’s features to look exactly like Abraham’s.  Anyone looking at Isaac would see that he was a dead ringer for his father.  Hence, these are the descendants of Isaac, son of Abraham.  Abraham was the father of Isaac.  The Torah clarifies, unequivocally, that Isaac was the son of Abraham.

Rabbi Avraham Saba, the author of Tzror Hamor, expands on this idea.  The Torah is listing the descendants of Isaac.  It is telling us his genealogy, his future.  The Torah is interested in more than just giving us a list of people who carried his DNA.  It wants to tell us what Isaac, son of Abraham was about.  Isaac’s life was dedicated to the concept of Abraham was the father of Isaac.  Everything Isaac did in his life was dedicated to that goal.  His actions and philosophies indicated to all who met him that Abraham was the father of Isaac.  According to the Tzror Hamor, this is part of the reason that G-d made Isaac’s appearance the same as his father’s.

(We find a similar idea in reference to Noah:

These are the descendants of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man…Noah had three sons: Sham, Ham, and Japheth.  (Ibid, 6:9-10)

Again, we see the same idea.  The first item on the list of Noah’s life is the fact that he was righteous.  What does his righteousness have to do with his descendants?  Everything.  Had Father Noah not been the righteous man that he was, I wouldn’t be here to write this, and you wouldn’t be here to read it!)

I recently heard a dismaying statistic.  It seems that Jews are the largest NON-RELIGIOUS ethnic group in the United States.  While I couldn’t find a source for that statistic, consider the following information from a 2001 survey, quoted from an atheist website:

There are about 5.3 million Jews in America, with only 2.83 million saying that they are believers in the Jewish faith. A full 1.08 million were “adherents of no religion,” and 1.36 million identified as Jews embraced a faith other than Judaism.

Have you ever noticed when you read about advocates of so-called “rights” that the Torah opposes, e.g., “gay” marriage, murder of pre-born humans, etc. the lists invariable contain Jewish names?  In fact I have often seen these “rights” referred to as “Jewish values.”

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Now that we are in the post-Thanksgiving season, we are once again being bombarded with music, decorations, and parties in celebration of the birthday of a Jew who advocated ignoring the commandments of the Torah.  How many of our fellow Jews will join in celebration?

Do we “look like Abraham?”  Do we show, in our every action and deed, that we are not interested in getting absorbed into the prominent culture around us?  Or do we just smile, and share the joy over the fact that “’tis the season…?”

Being a biological descendant of Abraham does not make one a “son of Abraham.”  Abraham had eight sons.   Yet G-d chose only Isaac.  Isaac had two sons.  Yet, G-d chose only Jacob.

No, we don’t need to grow long beards and payos and put on Jewish looking garb.  (Although that would not be a terrible thing either!!)  But we do need to remember who we are.  Celebrating “our own December holiday” as our version of the other one doesn’t make the situation any better.

Celebrities of the Jewish faith tend to engender Jewish pride.  Whether they are politicians, movie stars, or athletes, we tend to enjoy the fact that one of our own has made it.

Personally, despite being a Red Sox fan, I’d rather see the Bosox lose every Friday night and Saturday game, and know that Kevin Youkilis is spending a quiet Shabbos with his family.  Someone I know recently pointed out that when our enemies claim that Hollywood is run by Jews who have corrupted the morals of American society, THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!

I take no pride in public figures who happen to be Jewish but represent lifestyles and philosophies that are an anathema to what the Torah teaches us.  On the other hand, Jews like Senator Joseph Lieberman (See “Way to go, Joe”) and Michael Medved, whether on not you agree with their respective political views, are people who demonstrate to the world that being a son of Abraham means more than eating bagels.

Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Jonah.  He tried to run away from an assignment given to him by G-d.  But G-d caught up with him.  When the ship he was on was about to sink, the sailors asked him who he was, where he was from, and what he did for a living.

Jonah gave them an answer that we should carry with us every moment of every day of our lives:

“I am a Hebrew.  And I fear the G-d of the Heavens…”  (Jonah, 1:9)

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

“The So-Called ‘Rabbi’” 

I don’t look down on people who don’t share Torah Judaism’s view of our obligations to G-d.  I try very hard not to put down Jews who believe differently than I.  I believe, quite simply, that in most cases, they have not had the opportunity to learn and to come to understand what Torah is really all about.

But one thing that really bugs me is when people misrepresent Torah Judaism.

Perhaps you read about the travesty that took place in  Washington,  DC last week.

Read More.

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“Something Smells Rotten in the State of Beersheba” (2009)

… The blessing of a holy man like Isaac carries a great deal of weight… Esau no longer possessed the legal status of the firstborn.  He was not entitled to Isaac’s blessing.

 … Rebecca set out to save Isaac’s blessing for Jacob … She placed goat hides on smooth-skinned Jacob so he would feel like his hairy brother if Isaac touched him.  She dressed him in Esau’s special garment, which had once belonged to Adam.

 The ruse went well…

 when he realized that he had blessed the “wrong” son, he saw Gehinnom (loose and largely inaccurate translation: “hell”) open up under Esau…

Read more.

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“Like Father, Like Son” (2008)

…  Abraham had been married to Sarah for decades without children.  Then she was abducted for a short time by Abimelech, the Philistine king.  A short time later, Sarah was pregnant.  It didn’t take much for the “Yentahs” in the neighborhood to start spreading nasty rumors as to the paternity of Isaac.

In order to stop the rumors…

Read more.

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“Closed Eyes and Closed Mouths” (2006) 

Abraham had a total of eight sons.  However, most of them did not represent the future of Israel.  Abraham passed his legacy on to his second son Isaac …

Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.  Who would be the standard bearer of the descendents of Isaac?

Esau was perhaps the greatest con man who ever lived.  He managed to pull the wool over the eyes of his father Isaac … his mother, however, was not impressed…

Read more.

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“Red Beans and Redskins” (2003) 

… In my 20+ years as a rabbi, I have learned that there are certain “safe” topics. (E.g., loving your fellow man and giving charity) Some topics are more “iffy,” (Sabbath observance and Kashruth) while others are downright volatile (intermarriage and “terminating” pre-born children). Many listeners and readers want a rabbi to inspire and uplift them, but only as long as he minds his own #$%&*#@*! business.

… there have been times that I’ve managed to get lots of people upset with me. Today’s topic fits into that category. So, I hope you’ll read this with an open mind. If you agree, that’s great. If you disagree, there’s always next week! 🙂 …

Read more.

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“An ‘FFB’ Marries a ‘BT’” (2002)

… They were an unusual couple…

His father was a respected scholar. Her father was known to his neighbors as a degenerate. He had attended the finest Yeshiva. She was self-taught. In his youth, he had been insulated from the evils of the outside world. She had lived in the outside world.

His family welcomed her. Her family wasn’t thrilled about the marriage. She had told them that she was marrying him whether they liked it or not.

Could this marriage work?…

Read more.

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“Walking the Talk” (2001)

In an unprecedented act of “Divinely endorsed deception,” Jacob embarks upon a mission to fool his father. Jacob is an honest and gentle man, while his brother Esau is a rogue and a fraud. Esau has managed to fool his blind father Isaac into thinking that he is worthy of receiving his blessing…

Rebecca understands the true nature of her wicked son Esau. She has been given the prophetic message that this miscarriage of justice cannot be permitted to take place. She places goatskin on Jacob’s smooth-skinned arms so that he will feel like his hairy brother Esau. She assures him that under these unusual circumstances, it is permitted to mislead his father into thinking that he is Esau…

Still, Jacob was uncomfortable with the ruse. He understood that this was necessary. His mother was a prophetess, and she said that this had to be done… Yet, pretending to be someone he wasn’t didn’t sit well with Jacob…

Read more.

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“Double Trouble” (2000) 

…One Mitzvah that was very important even to a scoundrel like Esau was honoring his father; he would never do anything to hurt Isaac. He would wait patiently for his father’s death before murdering his brother. But why did he say, “The days of mourning for my father are coming”? Why didn’t he just say, “When my father dies, I’ll kill Jacob?” Why the emphasis on mourning?…

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on November 27, 2008 at 11:01 am  Leave a Comment  

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