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The narrative continues and we read about the generations of Abraham. Isn’t it interesting how the portion begins with,

“And these are the offspring of Isaac son of Abraham – Abraham begot Isaac.” Genesis 25:19

But then 2 verses later it says,

“Isaac entreated HaShem opposite his wife, because she was barren.” Genesis 25:21

This should come as no surprise to us who believe the promise to Abraham just as he believed. We should not even have to continue reading to know that Isaac and Rebecca bear children.  Though we would miss out on beautiful demonstrations of G-d’s faithfulness and power if we did not continue. I believe that is why it was important to state that Rebecca was barren. It is another wonderful proof that nothing is impossible for G-d!

In looking at the Hebrew we find a word in Genesis 25:22 that has not been used thus far.

“The children struggled [ וַיִּתְרֹֽצֲצוּ ] together within her…”

Not only is this the first usage of the word but it is the only time this word is used as “struggle.” The most common translation of the word is “oppress.” The literal meaning of the word [ וַיִּתְרֹֽצֲצוּ ] fits perfectly with G-d’s answer to Rebecca’s question.

“And HaShem said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.’” Genesis 25:23

Anytime you have a stronger and older person being ruled by a younger person there will be a struggle. It is easy to be swayed by physical traits. The world would acknowledge the bigger, stronger, and older as the ruler, but G-d establishes the younger as the ruler. (King David is another great example) Regardless of the oppression Esau and his descendents place on Jacob and his descendents G-d will not break His promise. We reflect on this biblical truth today as we witness Israel being preserved and protected amidst the Arab oppression. The descendents of Esau will continue to make war against Israel, but there will be a day (may it be soon and in our days) when Messiah Yeshua comes and physically manifests His kingship.  On that day all the earth will see that Messiah Yeshua, a descendent of Jacob, rules over the nations. Hallelujah!

Also contained in this portion is a perplexing question. When Esau returned from hunting and served delicacies to his father Isaac after Jacob had just received the blessing scripture says,

“Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, ‘Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.’” Genesis 27:33

This verse contains the first use of two words for “tremble” [ וַיֶּחֱרַד ] and [ חֲרָדָה ], which is understood throughout scripture as afraid or fearful. The perplexing question is, of what or of who was Isaac afraid? Was he afraid that Esau was going to harm Jacob? Was he afraid because he thought he somehow disobeyed G-d? In this passage it seems like Isaac did not need any assistance in knowing that Jacob had taken the blessing. Who else could it have been? I believe Isaac was afraid because he knew he had blessed the wrong person. He may have been worried about the effect his blessing would have upon the promise of descendents. Nevertheless, G-d used this whole situation to fulfill the promise given to Rebecca about which son would rule the other. Another explanation is offered in the book, Midrash Tanhuma-Yelammedenu: an English translation of Genesis and Exodus from the printed version of Tanhuma-Yelammedenu with an introduction, notes, and indexes by Samuel A. Berman:

“Scripture states elsewhere in allusion to this verse: The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the L-rd shall be set up on high (Prov. 29:25). Because of the fear that Jacob brought upon Isaac, it would have been fitting for him to have cursed him. Who compelled him to bless Jacob? Whoso putteth his trust in the L-rd shall be set up on high. R. Levi said in the name of R. Hama the son of Hanina: Isaac was terrified twice, once when he was bound upon the altar, and again when Esau entered. There is no way of knowing which event frightened him more, but since the word exceedingly is mentioned in this verse, you may presume that this was the more terrifying experience. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: Because of the evil inclination, you do not pursue My ways in this world, but in the future I will place within you a new heart;  And I will put a new spirit within you; you I will remove the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh (Ezek. 11:19).”

Further reading on the topic reveals,

“The trembling, the anxiety of Yitzchak, has troubled commentators since Chazal. The midrash, feeling the dread implied in the word ‘charada gedola,’ says this refers to a feeling of gehinom; he felt the opening of hell, of death, before him.”1

In this case, it is not about the answer, it is about the search. The cause of Isaac’s trembling is debated, even among the commentators, yet it is still helpful to inquire and discuss.  The Torah is our guidebook for living and it is our responsibility to read, study, and obey.


PARASHAT TOLDOT by Rav Ezra Bick; (c) Yeshivat Har Etzion1997


The first interesting point in this week’s parasha is the puzzling name for the parasha chosen by the Sages. Chayei Sarah translates to “Life of Sarah” but the first part of the portion is about Sarah’s death and burial. The intention here, if I understand it correctly, is to demonstrate the legacy of Sarah. Even though she has passed away we see the influence of her life on Isaac as he takes Rebecca as a bride, Abraham as he sends away the “concubine-children” [Gen. 25:6] from Isaac just like Ishmael, and Ishmael himself as he comes back to fulfill the mitzvah of burying his father.

“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitudes – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:11-13

In parasha Chayei Sarah we see the progressive fulfillment of the promises given to Abraham and Sarah. These promises continue even to this day. Though their lives ended HaShem’s promises are amaranthine. We can learn from how Abraham and Sarah lived out their faith. Yes, Sarah lived to see her promised son Isaac born but she did not live to see kings of peoples rise from her. [Gen. 17:16] Abraham lived to see G-d do as He promised to Sodom and Gomorrah but he did not live to see his offspring become increased like the stars in the heavens. [Gen. 22:17] Nevertheless they feared G-d and obeyed His every word. Even so, we may not live to see the second coming of Yeshua but we should, by faith, live as though it were today. If you knew Yeshua was coming back today, how would that change your walk?

Other interesting concepts in this week’s parasha are the similarities between Abraham and his brother Nahor’s family despite the physical distance. In regard to hospitality both entreat their guests to stay, wash their feet, and provide food. We know this of Abraham from last week’s parasha and we know this of Nahor’s son and grandson here:

“He said, ‘Come, O blessed of HaShem! Why should you stand outside when I have cleared the house and place for the camels?’ 32 So the man entered the house, and unmuzzled the camels. He gave straw and feed for the camels, and water to bathe his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33 Food was set before him, but he said, ‘I will not eat until I have spoken my piece.’” Genesis 24:31-33

It appears that hospitality was a defining characteristic in Abraham’s family. Was Terah the person who inculcated generous hospitality? It would seem so since we read accounts of Abraham’s hospitality [Terah’s son], Lot’s hospitality [Terah’s grandson], and Laban’s hospitality [Terah’s great grandson]. Here we have a beautiful example of generational faithfulness specifically relating to hospitality.

Here is another similarity between Abraham and Nahor’s family in regard to blessing:

[Laban and his Mother to Rebecca] “They blessed Rebecca and said to her, ‘Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of its foes.’” Genesis 24:60

[G-d to Abraham] “that I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy.” Genesis 22:17

Did Abraham’s family know the blessing G-d gave him after the binding of Isaac? Either way the blessing given to Rebecca was prophetic. My intention for highlighting similarities between both families is to emphasize the importance of the biblical selection process for a spouse.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Abraham knew the importance of Isaac finding a virtuous woman which is why he forced his servant to take such a strong oath.

“And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh,” Genesis 24:2

Interestingly enough the word here for thigh is יְרֵכִֽי which can also be understood as loins or related to the word for descendants as it is in this verse:

“All the descendants of Jacob [ יֶֽרֶךְ־יַעֲקֹב ] were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.” Exodus 1:5

It was as if Abraham was swearing an oath on his descendants! In other words, Abraham declared that the fulfillment of the oath [finding a wife for Isaac from his country and his family] was directly related to the fulfillment of G-d’s promise of innumerable descendants! Both were dependent on G-d. Abraham’s servant realized this which is why he relied solely on G-d for the success of the quest. Finding a righteous wife was an essential ingredient for generational faithfulness and the servant used a revealing test. Would this beautiful young woman willingly demonstrate righteousness and love beyond what is requested? Rebecca completed the challenge and agreed to be Isaac’s wife.

Too often marriages are formed based on emotion. Marriage is too important to rely on ourselves. This passage in Genesis is just one of the many places where G-d reveals His process for selecting a spouse. Notice the important traits of Rebecca: Generous, loving, obedient, pure, beautiful, AND she demonstrated these characteristics before she knew someone was even interested in her! When these traits are faked or they manifest themselves during the “in love” euphoria it is easy to fall prey to the call of the siren. Brothers and sisters, I implore you to heed the wise words from the Song of Solomon and “..not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” [Song of Solomon 2:7] We have been promised that our inclusion of G-d and stringent selection criterion will evoke blessing.


This week we see a very important portion, especially in Judaism. In my opinion, Genesis 22:1-19 is one of the most difficult of all the trials Abraham faced. Here he is asked to offer his only son, whom he loves, as an offering. This whole passage contains messianic foreshadowing of Yeshua’s ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.  Some of the parallels include; Isaac being the “only son, whom you love” and Yeshua being G-d’s only Son; both being offered as an offering upon G-d’s request; the wood, which was the source of death since it sustained the fire, was placed on Isaac and he carried it up the mountain just as Yeshua carried the wooden cross up the hill; both Isaac and Yeshua had the faith to walk out their father’s will; and so on.

In Parasha Vayera we see yet another fascinating parallel between Isaac and Yeshua. In the last portion G-d commands Abraham,

“You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days every male among you shall be circumcised, throughout your generations..” Genesis 17:11-12

Sure enough Abraham’s “only son, whom you love”, Isaac, is miraculously born and circumcised on the eighth day. Not only was Isaac promised to Sarah and Abraham just as Yeshua was promised to Mary and Joseph, but both mothers gave birth despite the physical impossibility. It is just as impossible for a woman without a menstrual cycle to give birth as it is for a virgin to give birth. It appears that Isaac is the first male to be circumcised on the eighth day. Ishmael was thirteen and there isn’t any indication that the people in Abraham’s household had just been born. Why is this significant? Because Isaac is the first child to fulfill the entire commandment of circumcision. Yeshua also fulfilled this commandment in its entirety by being circumcised on the eighth day.

“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” Luke 2:21

There are even similarities in the outcome of the sacrifices of Isaac and Yeshua. The writer of Hebrew’s mentions,

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that G-d was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Hebrews 11:17-19

Which sounds similar to,

“When Abraham bound his son Isaac on the altar, and slew him and burned him, (the lad) was reduced to ashes, and his ashes were scattered on Mount Moriah; then the Holy One, blessed be He, brought down life-giving dew and revived him […] See S. Spiegel in the Abraham Weiss Jubilee Volume (New York, 1964), pp. 553-566.]1 (emphasis mine)

Also, we know that Yeshua died and rose from the dead. However, the difference between Yeshua and Isaac is the most important part. Yeshua was, is and always will be G-d. His precious blood provided eternal atonement and it is through Him that we may be grafted in to Israel His bride. It is our responsibility to read the Apostolic Scriptures through the lens of the Tanach. In regards to Yeshua, those who believed recognized Him from Scripture. They saw the prophecies being lived out. They saw the messianic references in the Tanach come alive before their eyes. We may not have the incredible honor and privilege of walking physically with Yeshua, but as He said in John 20:29,

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

Shabbat Shalom!


1 Courtesy of Curious Jew blog. Cambridge University Library manuscript (Or. 1080, Box I: 48), of the Midrash on Shibbole ha-Leket

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