Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

Isaac and Ishmael: Burying Grievances and Bringing the Redemption


When Avraham passes away, we’re told in this week’s parsha, “וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אֹתוֹ יִצְחָק וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל”: and Yitzhak and Yishma’el, his children, bury him in the Ma’arat HaMachpela. [Genesis 25:9]

This verse is so powerful – it shows that two warring children were able to make peace and eventually come together. There was a rapprochement between the two of them, and many commentators allude to this message of them coming together. [see Rashi to Genesis 25:9, based on Bava Batra 16b]

But when I read this pasuk, this verse, I see a larger message.

One year after the Abrahamic Accords, which in many ways is an expansion of the coming together that’s found in this pasuk, because now it is the children of Yitzhak and the children of Yishmael that are coming together.

For so long, religion has played a role, or has been used and manipulated, to create conflict and strife in society.

But just maybe we’re getting to the point of וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אֹתוֹ יִצְחָק וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל, that we’ve learned how to bury our differences. Not to suggest that we should worship the same way or should have the same faith systems. No!

We have different ways of worshiping, and they should be celebrated and they should remain distinct to our own private communities. But the potential to work together to create harmony and peace in our society, as Rabbi Soloveitchik discusses in Confrontation, the ability for the children to dialogue on poverty, on freedom, on moral values, on technology, on human values and civil rights.

That’s our responsibility, to bury the animosity. And it’s critical to understand that Torah and Judaism is not a religion of exclusion, but one of pluralism. We believe there are multiple entry points through which one can live a life of purpose, and that’s why Judaism never promotes conversion.

At the end of time, the pasuk in Isaiah tells us “וַהֲבִיאוֹתִים אֶל הַר קָדְשִׁי”, that we will invite all Jews and all faiths systems, “וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי”, to be joyous in our house,

“עוֹלֹתֵיהֶם וְזִבְחֵיהֶם לְרָצוֹן עַל מִזְבְּחִי”. [Isaiah 56:7]

Everyone will be welcome. Everyone will be able to rejoice, not just following one path, because that ultimately is the time of the messianic era: the recognition that Judaism celebrates multiple forms of prayer, multiple engagements. And the messianic time is when the children of Yitzhak and the children of Yishmael are able to bury their animosity and to help merge and bring a redemptive quality to society.

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 32 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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