Torah Portion: Tol’dot (Generations) B’resheet (Genesis) 25-28
Haftorah Reading: Malachi 1:1-2:7
Our Torah portion is devoted entirely to Isaac and his family. In fact this is the only portion that gives us much information about the second of the Patriarchs. In our portion we read of many similarities between Isaac and Abraham. Each had to face decades of childlessness, famine, hostile tyrants and rebellious sons. However, they were both very different. Abraham was constantly on the move. Isaac never left the land of Israel. Abraham spent his whole life as a shepherd. Isaac was a shepherd too but he also was a farmer. Abraham spent his life interacting with people, spreading his faith in God. We see very little of this in Isaac’s life. Isaac was a digger of wells. We read of his digging of wells here in this portion.
What is the Torah telling us by spending time talking about wells? One trait that would stand out about a digger of wells would be persistence, pick a spot and stay with it. Don’t get discouraged when you come to a layer of rock. Keep on until you find that life giving water. Your task is just to remove the dirt and rocks so the water can well up. It may not be flashy but it is rewarding. Faith is another important quality believing that the water is just waiting to be set free to bring life. All this should encourage us. G-d needs well diggers. G-d needs people to stick with a task, to see it through, to take the time to invest into people’s lives so that the living water can rise up in their lives. I think G-d put all these details about wells to encourage each of us to stick to it. Don’t give up. Don’t get side tracked by flash, flesh or any other temptation.
A good example of that might be Esau. How would you describe him? What quality springs to mind first? I think he was a person moved by the moment. He was impulsive. If he had a need he wanted instant gratification. In Genesis 25:27-34 we read of the selling of the birthright for a bowl of soup. Let’s look at the conversation to see what we can learn about being ruled by your appetite. Esau came in from the field. He saw his brother cooking soup, smelled the delicious aroma and he asked for some. In fact the Hebrew gives the impression of someone only interested in one thing – satisfying his desire. Jacob’s response is clear and straight-forward, no hidden conditions. It was the birthright for a bowl of soup. Esau responded he was about to die so what good would the birthright be to him. Clearly he was not about to die, hungry yes, close to death no. He let his appetite dictate his will. He traded the birthright as if it was nothing. At that moment he forfeited everything for a bowl of soup. He wasn’t tricked by his brother. He was ruled by his desire of the moment. This should speak to us. Whenever we let our appetites rule us we are following after Esau. This word appetite does not mean just food but so many other things that tempt us. As followers of the Messiah we are faced with these temptations everyday. Will we despise our birthright for a passing craving? This is a battle we all face. We belong to the Father not to our appetites.
The last verse in our story of the interaction between the two brothers is telling. Scripture describes Esau’s actions in four words. He ate, drank, arose and left. Esau did not grasp what had just happened. His appetite was satisfied. He got the soup and that was what was important at that moment. He didn’t grasp the cost of the soup. We must always be aware of the cost for a moment of filling our appetite. In Hebrews 12:16-17 we read of the consequences.
In my question of the week we even read where Isaac faced something of the same choice. In chapter 26 of Genesis we read where there was a famine in the Land. Isaac was looking for food and water for his family. He went to the land of the Philistines. Maybe he was on his way to Egypt as Abraham had done when he also faced a famine. G-d appeared to him in Genesis 26:2-5 and said what to him? He said for Isaac to stay in the Land and He would be with him and bless him and give him the blessings of Abraham. Isaac could have fled on to Egypt and dealt with the famine through his own efforts but here he was able to submit his appetite to G-d and G-d rewarded him for his faith.
Everywhere around us today we see people living their lives running after something, anything that will quench their thirst or satisfy their hunger. I pray we will not get caught up in that type of living. I pray we can each one be a source of living water for those around us.