Parshat Toledot - Bereshit (Genesis) 25:19 - 28:9
This is the Story of Yitzhak
The story of the Jewish people now moves on from Avraham being the central figure to his son and grandsons Yitzhak (Isaac), Yaakov (Jacob) and Esav (Esau) now taking center stage.
While the Torah mainly concentrates on the Patriarchs it is important to note that the Matriarchs played a pivotal role in the development of the Jewish people and also had the ear of HaShem. G-d communicated with them as well. The women of G-d were central to the love and plan of HaShem.
”But the children struggled in her womb, and she (Rivkah) said, ‘If so, why do I exist?’ She went to inquire of the L-rd, and the L-rd answered her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, Two separate peoples shall issue from your body; One people shall be mightier than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.’”
The eldest (by a matter of minutes) grew to be a great hunter who spent most of time in the wilderness areas hunting wild game while the younger son hung out with Mom and Dad herding and taking more care of the household business. Esav was the hunter while Yaakov was the overseer of the family farming and shepherding enterprise. In the Torah there are two prominent hunters of renown mentioned. They were both haughty, rugged men of more earthly intentions whose ways and attitudes were not at all pleasing to HaShem. Course men but powerful. They were Nimrod (aka Gilgamesh of Shinar- Sumer) and Esav.
Yitzhak our father was also a great man. He, however unlike his son Esav, found favor in the sight of HaShem for reasons we will point to later in this teaching. Yitzhak did have one real character flaw, he favored his eldest son Esav despite the character traits he saw in him. Why? Because of his human weakness for the overwhelming desire for the taste of cooked wild game, which Esav was a master at preparing. This lust for meat became great in Yitzhak’s old age when he had become practically blind. If it hadn’t been for Rivkah his only wife of many years Yitzhak would have handed over the blessing of the first born to Esav instead of Yaakov whom G-d had intended all because Yitzhak liked Esav’s cooking.
”game was in his mouth.”
Why did Rivkah favor Yaakov over Esav? She loved them both. They were equally her sons. But, her favor rested on Yaakov because of the revelation of HaShem to her while both were still in her womb, not because of some human weakness like her husband had to appease his physical appetite for food.
The promised future for the offspring of Avraham was unimportant to his grandson Esav as displayed by his total disregard for his birthright of the first born. Esav was willing to trade it off for a measly bowl of lentil soup just to satisfy his physical craving of hunger. Of that he and his father Yitzhak may have had somewhat in common. This agrees with the words of David in the Psalms -
”When I was in the womb You knew me.”
G-d knew the character traits Esav would display before he was even born.
”Thus did Esav spurn the birthright.”
The Torah teaches us that Yitzhak is the only Patriarch that never left the land of Canaan. When he was younger his father Avraham forbid it and now that he is old G-d commands him to never leave it even in the midst of a famine in the area.
”The L-rd had appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land which I point out to you.’”
Because Yitzhak heeded HaShem’s word the covenant between G-d and Avraham is now enjoined by Yitzhak.
”’Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your heirs, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Avraham. I will make your heirs as numerous as the stars of the heaven, and assign to your heirs all these lands, so that all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your heirs - inasmuch as Avraham obeyed Me and kept My charge: My commandments, My laws and My teachings.’ So Yitzhak stayed in Gerar.”
In the midst of this famine that had gripped all of Canaan G-d blessed Yitzhak’s crops one hundred fold, mainly because he listened to the promise and believed G-d and stayed in the land. Prosperity can and will cause some to envy and want to hurt you. One’s response to such treatment requires great wisdom, which Yitzhak displayed when the Hittites surrounding him wished his success and prosperity for their own. As the wise King Solomon pronounced in his book Quoholet (Ecclesiastes) there is a time for peace and a time for war, a time to sow and a time to reap, a time to stay and a time to move on. Yitzhak realized it was time to move on a bit further away from the Hittites surrounding him. Regardless of the time HaShem remains with the faithful:
”That night the L-rd appeared to him (Yitzhak) and said, ‘I am the G-d of your father Avraham. Fear not, for I am with you, and I will bless you and increase your offspring for the sake of My servant Avraham.’”
Usually if an enemy, a nation or a person is unable to defeat you, bully you into submission or after trying various means of persuasion to cause you to submit to their will they will finally give up and confer to make a peace treaty with you. That is what eventually took place between King Abimelech of the Hittites and Yitzhak. [See: Chapter 26 verses 26-31]
At the age of 40 Esav once again shows his total disdain, disrespect and contempt for the covenant between his father and HaShem by marrying two Hittite women instead of those from his own people in the area of Haran as his father did. Esav is now fully disqualified from having any portion in the promise of G-d to his grandfather Avraham and his father Yitzhak. He is officially cut-off from his people. [See: Chapter 26 verses 34 and 35].
Now, even though it has been plainly shown to Yitzhak the hatred his son Esav has for the covenant promise, in his old age and physical blindness, which can be seen as a parallel for his spiritual blinders as it relates to his son Esav; Yitzhak is still willing to pass on the blessing of the first born to Esav. But again, the faithful Rivkah being obedient to the revelation of HaShem given to her concerning her son Yaakov comes to the rescue with a plan to usurp Yitzhak’s misguided behavior. [See: Chapter 27 verses 1-13]
It is here we have a paradox found throughout the Torah and Tanakh as it relates to the beginnings of the family of Avraham. That contention is deception. Avraham used it with Pharaoh by saying Sarah was his sister and not his wife (even though legally she was his half-sister). Yitzhak did the same with King Abimelech concerning his wife Rivkah and now deception is being used against Yitzhak by Rivkah and her son Yaakov. Much further down the road in time we have the recounting of David using a tactic of deception by feigning madness in the city gates belonging to Achish the king of Gath so his life would be spared. In all these cases HaShem doesn’t correct or chastise the deceivers. Why not? Because their deceptions were clothed in a robe of righteous faithfulness to the covenant promise and the commands of G-d. In every case the deceit performed was to ensure and protect the outcome of the eternal promise of G-d that through the Patriarchs, Matriarchs and the Davidic royal line Yisrael would become a great people that would be used by HaShem to bring the light of Torah to the entire world, His commandments with the intentions and minds of men and a pathway for the coming of Mashiach son of King David to Yerushalayim in the Acharit Hayamim (End of Days). If anyone in that chain of events had failed or faltered in ensuring that future outcome then the world would have been forever steeped in darkness fit only for eternal destruction and judgment by the Great Judge of Eternity. Therefore, I think a little bit of deception on the part of our fathers and mothers in the past to keep G-d’s oath and covenant alive was more than fine, in fact it was a display of righteousness.
Once the first born blessing has been bestowed on his younger son Yaakov his father Yitzhak realized and accepted it was G-d’s will so, as the new progenitor of the covenant he blesses Yaakov and sends him off to Haran to find a wife from the family of Avraham to continue the promise unbroken.
””So Yitzhak sent for Yaakov and blessed him. He instructed him saying, ‘You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite women. Up, go to Paddaan-aram (Haran), to the house of Bethel, your mother’s father, and take a wife there from among the daughters of Lavan, your mother’s brother. May El Shaddai bless you, make you fertile and numerous, so that you become an assembly of peoples. May He grant the blessing of Avraham to you and your offspring, that you may possess the land where you are sojourning, which G-d assigned to Avraham.’ Then Yitzhak sent Yaakov off, and he went to Paddan-aram to Lavan the son of Bethel the Aramean, the brother of Rivkah, mother of Yaakov and Esav.”
Until next week's parsha - Shabbat Shalom.