Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wonder Who Will Water All The Children Of The Garden (Robert Hunter, Phil Lesh & Jerry Garcia "St. Stephen -William Tell Bridge")

          Our family gathered together to celebrate American Thanksgiving and our eldest daughter’s birthday. Seeing my parents and all of our children celebrating a birthday and Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but have a sense of Thankfulness. I also sensed the inevitable squeeze of being the middle generation. My parents are still healthy, still independent but aging with all the inconveniences of aging. Our children are healthy, engaged in their age-appropriate endeavors: high school studies and activities, university studies and activities and moving along a career path in her chosen field. As a result, I worry about their continued education, their life choices, and helping them when necessary. I watch my parents and my children interact, and I am deeply appreciative that our children are blessed with three grandparents with whom they enjoy an incredibly close and meaningful relationship. As our children listen to stories told to them by their grandparents, our children notice my father’s mannerisms and his expressions. My children comment on how similar I am to their grandfather. My father and I laugh invoking the words of Mel Brooks’ Two Thousand Year Old Man: “We mock the things we are to be.” Apparently, on their grandfather, these mannerisms and use of language, and philosophy on life are appealing, cute and endearing. On their father, these mannerisms, use of language, and philosophy of life are unappealing and annoying.
          This week, we read from Parsha is Toldot. We read of the birth of Esav and Yaakov. Even though they were twins, we learn that these boys couldn’t be any more different. Esav is a hunter Ish Sadeh – a man of the field, an outdoorsman, Yaakov is Ish Tam v’Yashav b’Ohalo – a simple man who resides in his tent. Yaakov is concerned with the Birthright, receiving blessings and the spiritual world. Esav is concerned with eating, drinking, hunting, and the physical world. We learn that just like his father, Avraham, who experienced a famine in the land, Yitzchak also experienced a famine in the land. Unlike his father, Yitzchak does not go down to Egypt. Yitzchak remains in the land, grows wealthy, and re-opens the wells that had gone dry in his father’s day. The narrative then re-focuses upon Yitzchak and his family. Yitzchak, sensing his imminent death, wants to bless Esav. Rivka overhears this and tells Yaakov to pose as Esav in order to receive the blessing. Yaakov listens to his mother and dresses as Esav. Yaakov receives Yitzchak’s blessing. As a result, Esav is fit to be tied and threatens to kill Yaakov. The Parsha concludes with Rivka telling Jacob to go to her brother’s home, convincing Yitzchak that Yaakov needs to leave home in order to find a wife. Yaakov receives his fathers’ blessing, the blessing of the Brit, the Covenant that God made with Avraham and Yitzchak, a blessing that was never intended for Esav. Yaakov leaves home and Esav moves away as well. He decides to dwell with his uncle Ishmael among the Canaanites.
          The Parsha begins with a common sort of phrase but contains within it a rather unexpected twist. The common phrase is Eila Toldot so and so. Whenever the Torah wants to begin presenting a genealogy; it begins with Eilah Toldot (These are the generations). We expect to see a list of children. However, this week’s Parsha begins, Eilah Toldot Yitzchak ben Avraham, Avraham Holid Yitzchak – These are the generations of Isaac son of Avraham; Avraham sired Isaac Gen 25:19). Given the end of the verse, the beginning of the verse should have said These are the generations of Avraham, Avraham sired Isaac. Why does the Torah remind us that Avraham is Yitzchak’s father? The Midrash Tanchuma is compelled to respond to the rumors questioning Isaac’s origins. Recalling that Sarah had been taken by Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-17), questions about Isaac’s origins persisted. Naysayers and conspiracy theorists cite Avraham’s behavior regarding the Akeidah as evidence supporting the rumor and conspiracy. Avraham needed to be told which son was to be offered. The Midrash Tanchuma explains that Isaac’s features were identical to Avraham’s features. Even in the previous Parsha, Chayei Sarah, Avraham was described as “old” immediately prior to his death. The Midrash explains that until Avraham, there was no such thing as old age. However, Avraham asked that he have the z'chut (the merit) of showing his age because he and Isaac looked so similar and their mannerisms were so similar. The Chatam Sofer (18th century Bratslav) offers an alternative understanding to that of Midrash Tanchuma. In his comment about the phrase: “Avraham sired Yitzchak”, The ChatamSofer suggests that the phrase alludes to the profound sense of fulfillment that Avraham derived from his son. Eventually, Avraham no longer desired to be known as Avraham. Instead, he received Nachas, (a mixture of pride and joy) being known as Yitzchak’s father and Jacob and Esau’s grandfather.
          Avraham had reached a point in his life where his focus was all about his legacy, his son and grandchildren. For Yitzchak, who looked so similar to his father, and whose mannerisms were so similar to his father, people couldn’t help but think that Yitzchak embodied so much of his father’s values and personal philosophy. Yitzchak must be the rightful inheritor of Avraham’s covenant with God. What follows from this opening verse focuses our attention as to who from the next generation will inherit this covenant. The answer is Avraham. Whichever of Yitzchak’s children embody Avraham, he will be the recipient of the covenant. No, I don’t look upon my children and think that only one is worthy of a covenant. Rather, as my children roll their eyes because they see and hear my father in me, indeed, I have been the beneficiary of my father’s Torah. As they continued to comment and lovingly tease me, I smile to my father and remind my children the words of Mel Brook’s “We mock the things we are to be”. I only hope that the “to be” that they mock are the good qualities that I received from my parents, and the good qualities my wife received from her parents.

Rav Yitz

No comments:

Post a Comment