Posted By The Stash
“And these are the generations of Isaac the son of Abraham; Abraham was the father of Isaac.” Rashi rightly and famously asks: why does the Torah repeat itself here for apparently no reason? We are told twice that Abraham is Isaac’s father. His answer is simple: in the preceding narrative, Abraham went to the Land of the Philistines during a famine. Abraham repeated his behaviour of protecting himself by telling Abimelech, the Philistine king, that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. We are told that Abimelech was prevented from having relations with her by divine intervention. But, states Rashi, popular gossip held that Sarah was pregnant from Abimelech, rather than the “too old” Abraham. But when Isaac was born, he was a “dead ringer” for Abraham and people said, “Look at that baby, the mirror image of his father, indeed Abraham is the father of Isaac.”

In a way, that proves to be a foreshadowing of Isaac’s career: he lived in the shadow of Abraham, and what had almost happened to him at the Akedah. Isaac’s passivity contrasts with his father’s pioneering expedition to Canaan and his son Jacob’s lengthy absence from Canaan. Isaac is rooted in space and time— almost frozen in Canaan since the Akedah. Isaac is a crucial link in the chain of tradition, but his personality does not stand out. He seems stifled and stilled, almost destined for silence because he was more Abraham’s son than he was Isaac. And this is the point of the repetition in our parasha’s first verse.

I often wonder how many people are stuck in roles that their parents placed them in and have been unable to move away from psychologically. They are never able to find an independent role for themselves, because they reside in the role created for them as children. Look at Isaac after the Akedah. Whereas Abraham has already found Sarai by the time we encounter him, and Jacob will go on his own wife quest, albeit at his mother’s behest, Abraham does not even ask Isaac if he wants to seek out a wife, but simply has him wait for the girl selected for him. This was such a difficult task that the servant sent on it needed a miracle to accomplish it. Indeed, the Talmud in Brachot refers to the servant’s prayer that G-d produce a miraculous sign to indicate the right girl for Isaac as “an act of chutzpah listened to only because of Abraham’s merit.”

This then is the caution of our parasha: it is fine to be called to the Torah as the son/daughter of your father and mother, but while you will always be your parents’ child, you must know when to become your own person as well. This is true growth, and Isaac does not achieve it. Perhaps that is why he lived so vicariously through Esau and admired his physical strength and ability to travel long distances in pursuit of game.

Let us pray that we will grow up to be happy with who we are, and not only with who our parents told us we should be.

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