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The middle section of the Parasha brings the detailed narrative of Abraham’s search for a wife for his son Isaac. However, Isaac – the beneficiary of the search – does not get a mention, until the very end (when presumably it would have been too late to raise any objection).
Abraham did not command his son Isaac against marrying a local Canaanite woman. It was his servant that he ordered not to choose a such a background for Isaac. Indeed, Rebecca – his bride to be – does have some say in that matter [her family asking her: ‘Do you wish to go with that man?’ (who was to bring her to Isaac), and she replied ‘I do’ (24:58) – on which the Rabbis base the tradition that it is forbidden to marry-off a woman against her will]. In contrast, Isaac was confronted with a ‘fait accompli’ – an accomplished fact. He was not consulted.
However, he seemed to be quite happy with the arrangement:
Isaac brought Rebecca into the tent of his late mother Sarah. He took her as his wife… and he loved her. Thus Isaac was consoled for the death of his mother (24:69).
In contrast, Isaac’s sons both made their own choices – emphatically so, though Jacob followed his father’s guidelines and Esau did not. The Halachic tradition seems to have followed this line – exemplified by the ruling of the Rema (R. Moshe Isserlis, 1520-1572), that a son is not required to follow the advice and insistence of his father on the choice of a marriage partner (Rema to Yoreh Deah 240:25). The parent does not have absolute authority in the child’s choice of marriage partner, nor is the child obliged to listen. The commandment to honor one’s parents does not extend to this situation. So why was Isaac not at least consulted?
In response, the following may be suggested. Greatness comes in different forms. Some are creators, some are disciples. A person who is very creative by nature needs his or her space. He does not fit the follower paradigm. He achieves greatness through originality, learning from mistakes, and finally creativity of lasting value. But others are happy to bear the great works of the great creators – and to bring them to the next generation, congruently and authentically. They have faith in their great masters and it is that which brings their values to others.
Abraham was a creator. Isaac was his son and disciple - and developer along the creator’s guidelines. Jacob was both a creator and a disciple.
We see Isaac’s utter faith as a son and disciple when he allowed his father to prepare him for an offering. He did not object, but went ‘together’ with his father (22:6,8). And with hindsight he knew that Abraham had done the right thing – as G-d declared to Abraham: ‘Now I know that you are a G-d fearing man’ (22:14).
In so doing, Isaac recognized the creator in his father Abraham. He recognized the creative nature of the relationship between G-d and his father. He understood that his father’s path with G-d was based on creative dialogue, even though his relationship with G-d would not be. It was in Abraham’s character. It was not in his own.
That is brought out by the penultimate verse of that chapter:
‘The servant told Isaac all that had taken place’ (24:66).
That was in itself sufficient for Isaac to tune into his father’s creative relationship with the Aboslute – in this case connected with his choice of a suitable partner.
Isaac recognized his father strength – growth through creative dialogue with G-d. It was supported through his experience at the Akeida (the binding of Isaac) – indeed, by the whole narrative of Abraham – sometimes accepting reality, sometimes challenging G-d, sometimes distressed, sometimes decisive, but ultimately regarding G-d as his absolute Teacher. Such a man would know what to do. Such a man had access to the Ultimate. And such a man could be trusted.
In contrast, Isaac’s strengths lay elsewhere. He did not attempt to intervene. He set guidelines for his son Jacob only after his bad experience over Esau’s choices: ‘Go to Padan Aram and take a wife… from your mother’s family’ (28:2). But he went no further…
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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