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Torah Sparks

November 25, 2006 – 4 Kislev 5767

Annual: Genesis 25:19-28:9 (Etz Hayim, p. 146; Hertz p. 93)
Triennial Cycle: Genesis 27:28-28:9 (Etz Hayim, p. 157; Hertz p. 99)
Haftarah: Malakhil 1:1 – 2:27 (Etz Hayim, p. 163; Hertz p. 102)

Prepared by Rabbi Avram Kogen

Summary of the Parashah

Isaac and his wife, Rebecca, were childless for a long time. When Rebecca finally conceived, she learned that she was carrying twins. These fraternal twins, who were intensely competitive even prenatally, were born with one (Jacob) holding the heel of the other (Esau). As they grew up, Esau showed an affinity for hunting, while Jacob became a herdsman.

One day, Jacob prepared a stew of lentils. Esau, returning hungry and tired from the hunt, asked Jacob to feed him. Jacob took this opportunity to bargain with Esau for the birthright. (We think that this meant both the mantle of leadership within the family and the double portion of inheritance that was considered the entitlement of the first-born.) Not only did Esau sell the birthright to Jacob, but he also scoffed at any value it may have had.

Isaac continued to live in the Promised Land, following in the footsteps of his father, Abraham. He weathered frictions with the Philistines and even undertook treaties with them.

Jacob was still single, while Esau married a Hittite woman. Isaac and Rebecca were both perturbed by Esau’s choice of a spouse. Later, Esau tried to find favor in their eyes by also marrying a daughter of Ishmael, his father’s half-brother.

When Isaac, feeling old and with failing eyesight, asked Esau to prepare some food that might inspire him to bless Esau, Rebecca overheard the conversation and swung into action. She pressured Jacob into disguising himself as Esau, and she provided the food to accompany the ruse. Jacob completed this charade before being found out by Isaac or Esau, but Esau made known his plans to seek revenge from Jacob. Jacob had received Isaac’s premier blessing, while Esau had to settle for an improvised blessing.

Rebecca sends Jacob to her ancestral homeland to seek a wife. (This mission also removes Jacob from Esau’s environs at a time when Esau was vocally upset with Jacob.) Rebecca gets Isaac to sign on to this plan as well. Jacob prepares for his journey.

Issue # 1: The Quiet Patriarch

Isaac was a less colorful figure than Abraham or Jacob. Although he may have been quiet, he definitely ranks as one of our patriarchs. Consider the following passages. What does Isaac add to the unfolding saga of our people? Consider the following passages.

Genesis 26:1-5: There was a famine in the land – aside from the first famine, which had occurred in the days of Abraham – and Isaac went to Avimelekh, king of the Philistines, in Gerar. The Lord had appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land which I point out to you. Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your offspring, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.”

Genesis 26:18: Isaac dug anew the wells that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and that the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death, and he gave them the same names that his father had given them.

Genesis 26:22: He moved from there and dug yet another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he called it Rehovot, saying, “Now at last the Lord has granted us ample space to increase in the land.”

Genesis 28:1-4: Isaac sent for Jacob and blessed him. He instructed him, saying, “You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite women. Up, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and take a wife there from among the daughters of Laban, 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 Abraham to you and your offspring, that you may possess the land where you are sojourning, which God assigned to Abraham.”

Issue #2: Special Relationships

And Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, too, my father!” And Esau wept aloud. (Genesis 27:38)

What lesson(s) can any parent of more than one child learn from this verse?

What, if anything, can any person with more than one friend learn from it?

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