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Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5783

Parashat Hashavua: The National Significance of Intergenerational Connection

Harav Yosef Carmel

The parasha’s first pasuk contains a famous apparent redundancy, referring to “Yitzchak the son of Avraham,” followed by “Avraham begot Yitzchak” (Bereishit 25:19). We will survey some of the many insights on this issue.

The midrash comments that a son’s following his righteous father’s path brings double joy (Bereishit Rabba 63:1). Midrash Aggada (Bereishit 25:19 says that repeating the connection between father and son in a different order stresses that each one reflected positively on the other. Yitzchak was elevated by being Avraham’s son, as the pasuk (Mishlei 17:6) says, “The glory of children is their father.” Avraham was seen positively for having a son like Yitzchak, as the pasuk (ibid.) says, “The crown of elders is their grandchildren,” and thus certainly their children. The Rashbam (Bereishit 25:19) says that since the Torah had referred to Yishmael as the “son of Avraham who was born to Hagar the Egyptian,” here it writes, in contrast, that Yitzchak was begot by Avraham, to stress that he was considered Avraham’s main progeny. The redundancy excludes other biological children of Avraham from the standing of “sons of Avraham” in the fullest sense (Bereishit 21:12 and Divrei Hayamim I, 1:28-34 also indicate Avraham’s sons’ levels of connection to him).

We humbly present an additional explanation of our opening pasuk.

The fathers of our nation, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, were leaders, who can be considered kings or princes of great groups of people, including people outside their family, who followed them devotedly. Therefore, their discourses were with kings. This is evident from the story of Avraham’s life. Avraham struggled against Nimrod, the leader of mankind’s first mega-state. Avraham competed against him in the generation of the Tower of Bavel and defeated him spiritually, when he emerged unscathed from the furnace in Ur Kasdim. He also militarily defeated the four Mesopotamian kings, led by Amrafel, whom Chazal identify as Nimrod, who fought Eretz Canaan’s five kings and captured Avraham’s nephew Lot.

Avraham had connections with the kings he had helped, such as the King of Sodom and Malkitzedek, the King of Shalem (which, Chazal say, was Yerushalayim). Avraham also negotiated with the kings of Egypt and of Plishtim, Paroh and Avimelech, respectively. Sarah herself was an Aramite princess, and the midrash says that Hagar was Paroh’s daughter. Avraham’s status justified his taking a concubine, which the Rambam says is permitted only for kings.

One of the features of a kingdom is that it turns into a dynasty. A leader who does not create a dynasty is not a king, but is at most a “judge.” We have explained that David could not build a Beit Mikdash but had to wait until Shlomo, his son, sat on the throne, as David did not enjoy the full status of king until his son succeeded him. David only prepared the infrastructure, upon which Shlomo brought the matter to fruition (see also Tehillim 132:11-14). Based on this, we can explain our pasuk as stressing that as Yitzchak developed to sit on Avraham’s “throne,” a king was created.

We pray that the whole world will recognize the special status that Avraham and Yitzchak established, which will bring great advantages for all of Avraham’s progeny, as the father of many nations, and indeed of all of humanity.
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