November 21, 2020 - Kislev 5, 5781
Torah: Genesis 25:19-28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
Brit Chadashah (New Testament): Romans 9:1-31
Strong Work Through Weak Tools
We don't like to have weak heroes. No, what we like to do is take our heroes and put them on a pedestal and treat them as if they live in perfection. Other times we enjoy pulling them down from the pedestal and grinding them to powder. The Bible does neither—it shows us the strengths, but also the weaknesses of the men and women of G-d. This week's sedra (Torah portion) highlights the life ("Tol'dot" in Hebrew) of Isaac and his family.
We begin with a very attractive picture—Isaac and Rebecca as people of prayer. Rebecca turns out to be barren, just like Sarah before her, and like Rachel after her. "This sterility may have been intended to emphasize that the children who were eventually born were a gift of grace from G-d for the fulfillment of His purpose," (Hertz, a Jewish commentator). The issue was obviously not just physical. When confronted with Rebecca's barrenness, Isaac takes the problem to the L-rd and the L-rd answers—Rebecca gives birth to twins. Actually, the Hebrew literally says that the L-rd "allowed Himself to be entreated,"—in other words, since these children were to be sons of promise, they would have to be "birthed" through prayer. Rebecca also had to agonize in prayer before the children were born. The twins turned violently in her womb (must have been awfully painful) so she cried out to the L-rd. When she did, the L-rd gave her a prophetic view of what would happen to the two of them.
Soon after this attractive view of Isaac and his family, comes a picture of the blemishes: Isaac and Rebecca engaging in favoritism—Isaac loved Esau, Rebecca loved Jacob; Esau despising his birthright—thinking so little of his place as the physical and spiritual heir, that he was willing to trade it for soup; Jacob gaining the birthright through manipulation of Esau and deception of his father.
Yet, the L-rd doesn't pitch them into the garbage can. He promised Rebecca that the older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob) and He somehow managed to see that it happened. What's more, the L-rd knew that even though Jacob used carnal means, he had a heart for G-d. The prophet Malachi (1:3) gives us the L-rd's perspective on this: “Jacob I have loved, and Esau have I hated."
That's encouraging! None of us can claim perfection, yet we see that the L-rd is gracious in forgiving us when we stumble and in using us, clay pots that we are, to advance His kingdom.