A Drash for Toldot 5770
by Marc Mangel
Generations! Today, I would like to talk about two verses concerning the relationship between generations.
The first is Ch26, v 34, in which Esau (40 years old according to the text) marries Judith and Basmat, both Hittite women and “they were a provocation to the spirit of Isaac and Rebecca”. Now, one can make an argument (but that is a different drash) that when we read age of the patriarchs we should cut the number in half. Thus, Esau – more likely age 20 years– becomes the first nice Jewish boy who breaks the heart of his mother by choosing a woman of whom she does not approve.
The reason for the bitterness of Isaac and Rivka is not stated, so the commentators are able to think broadly about what bothers his parents. Most think that there are two reasons 1) he breaks with social convention by arranging the marriage himself, rather than letting his parents do it and 2) he marries outside the kinship group – thus violating the fundamental first commandment of being fruitful and multiplying.
The second verse is Ch 27, v 20, when Isaac asks Jacob how it was that he was able to so quickly find meat for him. Jacob says “Because HaShem your God arranged it for me”. The commentators find this a more problematic verse – Jacob invokes God’s name in what appears to be an outright lie! Some commentators try to rationalize his answer to the question “Who are you, my son?” by noting that the Hebrew can be read “It is I, Esau your firstborn” (the lie) or as “It is I. Esau is your firstborn” (pure fact).
But there is another interpretation, and that brings us squarely to the question of who is a Jew. About the instance in which Jacob meets Manasheh and Efraim, Pinchas Peli wrote “Who is a Jew? Not somebody whose grandfather was Jewish, but somebody whose grandson is Jewish.” Perhaps the young Jacob understands, even if only at an intuitive level, that the continuity of Judaism requires that the children and grandchildren — not the parents and grandparents – are Jewish.
And if we want to ensure that continuity, what should we do? The answer seems simple enough. We need to behave in a way that makes our children and grandchildren proud of us.