This week we read Toldot, Bereshit 25:19-28:9. I’m only going to focus on the first verse as I’ve read it in Hebrew and am trying hard to understand and figure it all out.
This parsha begins with a listing, that “these are the toldot [descendants] of Isaac ben Avraham, Avraham gave birth to Isaac”. [woeful translation mine].
What?! Even my simplistic brain screamed (after I emailed a friend that I rarely had those types of questions that I’m really much more simplistic than that). The Torah does not waste words, why would it essentially state that Avraham was Isaac’s father twice?
Toldot can be translated in the text a few ways. As generations, which I personally do not like, as I only know one word for generation and like it, דור, dor. As “offspring” or (as my H&E Dictionary (the new bantam-megiddo from er 1975) states) “descendants” or “history”. I like those.
Let’s look at my good friend Rashi. Here is an English translation. Which I do need to rely pretty heavily on. My knowledge of Rashi script is constantly improving, but it still has a long way to go. Let’s “skip” to Rashi’s second comment on this parshah, “Avraham gave birth to Isaac”.
… Since Scripture wrote: Isaac the son of Abraham, it had to say: Abraham begot Isaac, because the scorners of the generation were saying that Sarah had conceived from Abimelech, for she had lived with Abraham for many years and had not conceived from him. … (from chabad.org)
Ok. I thought at first this was in a prior parsha but could not find it. As I’ve been lazy I haven’t gotten up to check my English-translation rashi and am relying on the internet so I believe that the source about the gossipers of how Sarah conceived Isaac is supposedly from Bava Kama 92b. I’ll take their word.
The rest of this is going to be quite random and scattered as the appliances are still “new” and I will be cooking dinner from the slow cooker tonight. Which is totally fine by me. I’m sad that I don’t have a nice polished post here, but it will have to do. Again, don’t take any of what I’ve written as how is must be. I’m just a lay person struggling, mostly on her own, to figure it out.
Onkelos (and his English translator) “renders” this verse as “Now these are the descendants of Isaac, son of Abraham, Abraham begot Isaac”.
My Uni has an English of Darash Moshe and I found Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, quite fascinating. I hope I can summarize and add to it enough so that I don’t plagarize. This is an English book… Why does Rashi say that the offspring of Isaac are Jacob and Esau? If we look again at “Avraham holid et Isaac” (Avraham begot Isaac) … before we learn of Isaac’s children, we first see that that Isaac is “praised” for being similar to his father, as they both taught the world about hashem. He taught his sons as his father taught him. Even with Isaac teaching as his father taught, he still had one son who ended up wicked (Esau). According to Harav, we learn that this is why we need to give our children a proper education! If Isaac with all his “good” produced an Esau, “how much more so muse we devote our energies to guiding our children on the correct path…” The Sforno differs from Rashi however, translating Toldot as the “life story” of Isaac, meaning events which represent the offspring of his activities, as children are one’s offspring.
Ramban, also a translation from my Uni and sadly I forgot to write down specs when I was there.. In the translation I read, it was written that Ibn Ezra says that holid is “bring up and raise” as in “yuldu” (were raised) upon Joseph’s knee (Bereshit 50:23). Yuldu cannot mean “were born” as it would therefore mean that Joseph’s grand children were literally born on his knees.
I never said I would figure it out, but I definitely have more to think about.