Irrational Nation – Parashat Toldot

There is an ever present trap that we risk falling into when we go through each parsha. This is partly because we ‘know’ what is going to happen next. Consequently, we absolve ourselves of having to ask why a certain detail or verse is included. The beginning of this week’s parsha is a case in point. Yitzchak is referred to as the son of Avraham. We are also given the precise genealogy of Rivka – “The daughter of Betuel, the Aramean, from Padan Aram, the sister of Lavan, the Aramean…”

The trouble is that we already knew this from the previous parsha. Had anyone forgotten the fact that Eliezer went to great lengths to make sure that Rivka returned with him? How Betuel and Lavan tried to persuade Rivka to stay?

Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch makes the following comment that Rivka was an individual who stood against her environment, hence the emphasis on her father and brother. By contrast, the verse tells us that Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak. Avraham was solely responsible for designing Yitzchak’s personality, to thepoint where it was a known fact that Yitzchak stood in the tradition of Avraham. The question is asked what sort of children would they have. The Gemara in Masechet Bava Batra 70a tells us that the majority of sons are similar to their maternal uncles.

There was no guarantee that either child would grow into a worthy successor of Yitzchak. Furthermore, the fact that they merited like Ya’akov Avinu, is all the more surprising and wondrous.

This wondrousness is a feature throughout the parsha. When Yitzchak moves to G’rar during the famine, and sows his fields in the middle of a famine! This miraculous phenomenon served as a preface to a sustained attack from the Pelishtim. Why was this case? Yitzchak’s success (and the Pelishtim’s response was based on the fact that our connection to the Land is inviolable, indeed almost beyond expression. As Rav Kook say in the beginning of his work, Orot:

“Eretz Yisrael is not an external thing, an external asset of the nation, nor is it a way of achieving the formation of general society or the establishing either a physical down to earth society or even a spiritual society. Eretz Yisrael is an independent entity which is central to the life force of the nation, where its exclusivity and inner beauty permeates its reality. As a result, it is impossible to fully describe the content of the distinctive holiness of Eretz Yisrael, nor plumb the depths of its beauty with any rational, human thought; Rather it is with ruach Hashem that rests upon the collective nation [the ability to unlock the blessings inherent in the land…”

About the Author
David Gross was born in Geneva and grew up in London. He graduated from UCL in 2010 with a B.A. in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He has previously served as Southern Fieldworker of Bnei Akiva UK. He has studied and taught in Yeshivat HaKotel, and currently teaches in Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi. He will be starting an MBA at Bar Ilan in the coming academic year.
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