Torah Portion: Toldot Genesis 25:19-28:9
HafTorah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
Again tonight I would like for us to look mainly at the Torah portion concerning Isaac’s life. I want to especially look at the last days of his life. Let us begin by looking at Genesis 25:21 where it says Isaac pleaded with G-d for his wife because she was barren. They had been married for 20 years. What effect do problems have in our life? It depends on how we look at them. We can worry, become angry, or just give up. All these are ways we can react to issues in our lives. Here we learn a good lesson. What really brings peace to us and answers to what we are dealing with? Prayer. The Hebrew in this verse is quite strong. The verb would be to plead, entreat, urge. Isaac was pouring all he had into this prayer ad not just for a day or two but years. The Talmud gives an explanation for this barren condition. “Because the Holy One blessed be He longs to hear the prayer of the righteous.” Isaac and others in the Bible were drawn to prayer for their barren wives. What effect can prayer have on us? On G-d? For sure it develops that closeness between us and the Father such as nothing else can.
Secondly, barrenness and then conception was usually sign of a special birth. Some examples would be Sarah, Samuel, and Samson. For sure this is the case here. There were two nations struggling with each other even before birth. G-d shares with Rebecca the reason. This knowledge played a part in her later actions. Both boys were named after some thing related to their birth. Esau was hairy and red. Jacob was named from the Hebrew word for heel. (Genesis 25:26)
In Genesis 3:15 we read about the serpent bruising the heel of Adam and Eva’s descendents. Jacob is the father of the tribes of Israel through which the Messiah will come. Ultimately the battle is between them and Messiah is victorious. So, even here we see G-d’s plan at work.
Now I want us to jump to Genesis 25:29-34 and look at the whole stew birthright story. First, on the surface this is a business deal between the two brothers. One is hungry and the other had food. Esau sells his birthright for stew. First, what is involved in a birthright? The most important issue is the spiritual responsibility for this son performs all the priestly duties of the family. He is the spiritual representative before G-d. One of my questions involved this. Esau sold it for beans but what did it really cost Jacob? How long did it really take for Jacob (Israel) to be actually recognized as the owner of the birthright? Read Exodus 4:22. What does G-d call Israel? “My son, my first born.” This is about 275 years after Jacob bought the birthright. What lesson can we learn from this? Israel went through the iron furnace of Egypt first. Our faith takes work. James again in the New Testament says work out your own salvation. Coming to the L-rd is the beginning for us, not the end. We can’t just sit down and say, “Come on heaven.” No, G-d requires us to be purified.
Now we go on to chapter 27, where it is nearing the end of Isaac’s life. What does it say in verse one? Isaac’s eyes were dim. In scripture this often has a spiritual meaning as well. Isaac apparently had lost his spiritual sight as well. Then in verse 2-4 we read his request for Esau to bring him food to eat before he dies and he will bless Esau. Sounds a little like what we heard from Esau earlier as he sold his birthright for food. This is another indication of spiritual blindness. In fact the Hebrew in Genesis 25:27-28 give the impression that Esau being a skillful hunter meant more than of animals. He could also entrap or manipulate people. So maybe Isaac had fallen under the influence of Esau and lost his way. His focus had shifted from the sacrifice to G-d to this life and world.
Finally Isaac blesses Jacob with the blessing of the first-born and in fact adds to it later when he sends him away to find a wife. This second blessing could indicate he had regained his spiritual insight and was again able to see what was really important in life.
This would be my prayer for each of us. May we concern ourselves with eternal matters for this is what has eternal significance.