Parashat Toldot

All Over Again

In this portion, children fall into the unfortunate trap of repeating their parents' mistakes.

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Provided by the Jewish Outreach Institute, an organization dedicated to creating a more open and welcoming Judaism.

This is a Torah portion that is replete with tension. It threatens to explode on the surface of the narrative in each word. We can feel it pulling at us as each verse unfolds to continue the saga of the ancient patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people.

This portion is also filled with déjà vu. Each time we read it, we feel as if we have read it before--and not just at this time in years past. Isaac returns to Gerar where his father had been. He pretends that his wife Rachel is his sister--to protect her--just as his father Abraham had done with Isaac's mother, Sarah. And then Isaac digs a well in the same place as his father had dug.
jewish outreach instituteBut the tension is what pulls me back to the portion. It is family tension, the kind that permeates the entire book of Genesis, and it is family tension that so many try to avoid. So people do what Isaac did. They skirt the truth and tell themselves that it is to protect those they love when maybe it is to protect themselves.

But they try to follow their parents' path (as in redigging the well of Abraham) because they think that that is the only way to bring peace to the family. Then they find that they can't recreate the past. And they have to forge ahead on their own before the life-giving waters will flow forth and provide them what they need to continue their journey.

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.