A Few Thoughts on Toldot

This week’s Parsha is Toldot, is Genesis 25.19 – 28.9, which begins, “Now these are the genealogies or toldot of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham fathered Isaac.” The word genealogies immediately suggest the account of family lineage, traced continuously from an ancestor, in this case Isaac. Though genealogies or lineage is the most common English translation of the word toldot, I believe that interpretation in the Jewish Study Bible, “This is the story of Isaac, son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac” has merit as well considering that the text continues the narrative of the calling out of a people, chosen by HaShem 

For you are a holy people to ADONAI your God—from all the peoples on the face of the earth, ADONAI your God has chosen you to be His treasured people. 

Deut. 7:6

So, as the narrative continues, we see a number of similarities between the father Abraham and the son Isaac. Like Abraham’s wife, Isaac’s wife was barren until the LORD answered Isaac’s prayers on her behalf (Genesis 25.21). Again, like Abraham, Isaac had two sons, one through whom the promises would continue, Jacob; and one who would venture out on his own, Esau. Similarly, just as with Ishmael, at times Esau and his descendants would be at peace with Isaac’s progeny, but more often than not, there was anything but peace.

In his commentary, The Rational Bible: Genesis, Dennis Prager observes that “Isaac was overshadowed by his father Abraham and his son Jacob.” Then he goes on to list various reasons for this observation,

1) Unlike both his father and son, whose names were changed—Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel—Isaac’s name was never changed (perhaps because it was uniquely bestowed before his birth by God—Genesis 17:19).

2) Unlike other males of the period, Isaac remained monogamous throughout his life.

3) He was the only patriarch to engage in agriculture, a profession at which he was successful (Genesis 26:12).

4) And finally, he was the only patriarch never to set foot outside the Promised Land.”

Gleaned from The Rational Bible: Genesis by Dennis Prager. Regnery Faith, 2019. Apple Books.

It is often taught that Isaac was rather a lackluster individual, compared to his father as well as his son (Jacob), even to the point that his story was more of a bridge connecting the stories two greater individuals. Maybe Isaac was not as exciting or boisterous as his father or his son, but whenever we speak of the patriarchs, it is always Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses confirmed this to Bnei Israel,

 This is in order to confirm you today as His people. So, He will be your God, just as He promised you and just as He swore to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.

Deut. 29:12

Today, we frequently, measure our own self-worth by comparing our own accomplishments, acquisitions, even our spiritual growth or development to that of others. Sadly, we usually fall short of our own expectations when we do this because we naturally compare ourselves to those we respect or look up to, those who we hold in high regard. Although such comparisons may at times motivate, they should not define us. In the letter to the Hebrews it is written,

Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also get rid of every weight and entangling sin. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, focusing on Yeshua, the initiator and perfecter of faith.

Heb. 12:1-2

In other words, instead of comparing ourselves to others, we need to focus on Yeshua, who as Rav Shaul affirmed would accomplish in us his good work.

I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua.

Phil. 1:6

Consider for just a moment, the second “great commandment” Yeshua taught his followers “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31) It is said that when you love God with all that your is (heart, soul, mind, and strength) and that you care for others as you care for yourself, then you have fulfilled the intent of the Torah. However, in order to love others as yourself, you must have a healthy, proper attitude about oneself, an attitude that sees oneself as special and beloved in Messiah, recognizing that we are all works in progress, on a journey.

Some of us may perform great deeds, as the world or even the Church considers great, while most of us just seem to day-to-day, just trying to “fight the good fight of faith.” But consider this, in 2 Samuel 23:8-39 there is a listing of David’s “mighty men.” This list of great importance, as it lists strong and courageous warriors and their exploits. However, early in the list we read

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. Now the Philistines were assembled in formation where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines—so ADONAI brought about a great victory.

2 Sam.23:11

Shammah, for whatever reason, found himself in lentil patch, and while everyone else fled the oncoming Philistine horde, Shammah stood strong and defended the lentil patch and was victorious, and in doing so made the list of David’s mighty men. It does not matter if our place in on the city walls or in a garden, so long as we are where HaShem has placed us. Equally, it doesn’t matter if we are might warriors or simple cup bearers to those in need; if we are trailblazers in the faith or the maintainers who assist others in keeping the faith. Our goal should not try and be exactly like others rather to imitate Yeshua, then in the final judgement we will be able to hear these words from Yeshua, 

“Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.… I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

Matt. 25:34 & 40

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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