This week’s parasha, Toldot, or “Generations”, Genesis 25:19–28:9,[i] begins with the birth of Jacob, Bnei Yisrael’s immediate patriarch. As with life in Israel, even to this day, nothing is ever easy. From the onset, Jacob was struggling with Esau, so much so that Rebekah had to ask, “If it’s like this, why is this happening to me?” (25.22). One needs to remember that she was barren for almost twenty years, before Isaac’s prayers on her behalf were answered. Rashi interprets Rebekah’s questioning as “Why did I desire and pray to conceive?”[ii] We need to realize, and remember, that all blessings from the hand of the LORD may not seem pleasurable. One blogger that I read on occasion describes Rebekah’s, and often our, situation thusly,
Blessings not only come through good health, good wealth, good jobs, etc. They also come in unexpected, ugly packages like trials and problems. And when we go through these ugly times of our lives, know that God will never leave us alone. He will sustain us with His love and grace as we go through difficult times.[iii]
I realize I said the following in last week’s Thoughts, but I believe it bears repeating. In the second paragraph of the Barachu, which is drawn from Isaiah, we recite,
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes peace and creates all.
The biblical text states
…that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45.6-7)
We may not always like it, but we have to accept the fact that all things are in the hand of ADONAI. Rav Shual may well have had this in mind when he wrote to the believers in Colossae, “All was created through Him and for Him. He exists before everything, and in Him all holds together” (Colossians 1.16b-17).
Rebekah was told, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples will be separated from within you. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25.23). It is most enlightening to realize that though not “children of the promise” both Ishmael and Esau became fathers of many nations. The blessing of Abraham, though not the lineage of Messiah, was applicable to all of his descendants. Rav Shual wrote to the believers in Rome, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11.29). In Lech Lecha we read, “The LORD took him (Abram) outside and said, ‘Gaze into the sky and count the stars–if you are able to count them!’ Then he said to him, ‘So will your descendants be’.” (Genesis 15.5). In Ishmael, we see a problem that can occur when we attempt to do the will of the LORD in our own strength. Isaac was the child of promise. Abram and Sara could not wait on Hashem, after all He might not fully realize all the issues of childbirth and child rearing. Hence, Ishmael was born. Then, concerning Esau and Jacob, Rebekah had the word from the LORD that Jacob would be the leader, thus the continuer of the Abrahamic promise to bring about the people of God. From both Ishmael and Esau, mighty nations arose, and sadly both have remained thorns in Israel’s side throughout the centuries to this day.
Rosh Chodesh Kislev begins on Motzei Shabbat, which means that this week’s Haftarah is a special reading for Rosh Chodesh (New Moon or New Month), 1 Samuel 20:18–42. This passage begins with Jonathan using the upcoming New Moon celebrations to gauge his father’s state of mind and heart concerning David, his good friend and brother in every way except blood, and to notify David of Saul’s intent toward him. Saul did notice David’s absence the first day, but overlooked it. However, on the second day, Saul became enraged with David and even struck out at his son for defending David. On the third day, Jonathan met David as pre-arranged and told him to flee Saul’s presence. Jonathan sent David on his way in peace, reminding him of the oath they had sworn together, saying, “May ADONAI be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever” (20.42).
This week we are reminded once again that not all of the “blessings” of the LORD work out for what appears to us to be for our good. Nevertheless, if we remain faithful to ADONAI, trusting in His plans and purposes for our lives, we will eventually understand the words He spoke to Jeremiah in the midst of the fall of Jerusalem, “‘For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,’ declares ADONAI, ‘plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29.11).
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
[ii] http://www.chabad.org/parshah/torahreading.asp?tdate=11/18/2017&p=1#showrashi=true , Rashi on Genesis 25:22.