October 31, 2013
19. And these are the generations of Isaac the son of Abraham; Abraham begot Isaac.
יט. וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת יִצְחָק בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת יצחק יִ
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. What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He shaped the features of Isaac’s face to resemble Abraham’s, and everyone attested that Abraham had begotten Isaac. This is the meaning of what is written here: “Isaac, the son of Abraham,” because here is proof that “Abraham begot Isaac.” – [From Midrash Tanchuma, Toledoth 1]
אברהם הוליד את יצחק: על ידי שכתב הכתוב יצחק בן אברהם הוזקק לומר אברהם הוליד את יצחק, לפי שהיו ליצני הדור אומרים מאבימלך נתעברה שרה, שהרי כמה שנים שהתה עם אברהם ולא נתעברה הימנו, מה עשה הקב”ה, צר קלסתר פניו של יצחק דומה לאברהם, והעידו הכל אברהם הוליד את יצחק, וזהו שכתב כאן יצחק בן אברהם היה, שהרי עדות יש שאברהם הוליד את יצחק:
Rashi is addressing himself to the obvious problem, the apparent superfluous phrase Avraham begat Isaac. After calling him Yitzchak Ben Avraham – Isaac the son of Abraham what is the need to add Avraham begat Yitzchak.
Rashi quoting the Midrash explains that Sarah had been married to Avraham many, many years without having children but having been taken by Avimelech she later had a son. So aspersions were cast. To counter this HaShem caused Yitzchak’s facial features to be a carbon copy of his father Avraham.
The Torah is telling us that something can be true but not necessarily accepted as true by people. Sometimes it takes time. Think of Einstein’s theory of relativity. He believed it to be true 10 years before it was proven. Most of the scientific word scoffed at him.
There is another explanation. The word “Ben” does not always mean biological son. It has a variety of meanings. A “ben bayit” is someone who frequents your home. The Aramaic bar is used in bar mitzva not literally the son of the mitzva but a person who is subject to the mitzvot. Bar Daat – an intelligent person.
Bnai ha nevi’im – the guild of prophets not the biological children of the prophets but their students. On Elijah’s ascent to heaven his Talmid Elisha cried out “Avi, Avi….. though he was not his biological son.
Compare this to the description in 21:9
וַתֵּרֶא שָׂרָה אֶת בֶּן הָגָר הַמִּצְרִית אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְאַבְרָהָם מְצַחֵק.
And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian which she bore to Avraham.
Pointedly Yishmael is not called ben Avraham though she (Hagar) bore him to Avraham. Avraham was Ishmael’s biological father but not his spiritual father. He was Ben Hagar and followed in her ways.
20. And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to himself for a wife.
כ. וַיְהִי יִצְחָק בֶּן אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בְּקַחְתּוֹ אֶת רִבְקָה בַּת בְּתוּאֵל הָאֲרַמִּי מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם אֲחוֹת לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי לו לאשה
To which Rashi comments
the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Padan-Aram, the sister of Laban: Was it not already written that she was the daughter of Bethuel and the sister of Laban and from Padan-Aram? But this is to tell her praise, that she was the daughter of a wicked man and the sister of a wicked man and her place was [inhabited by] wicked people, but she did not learn from their deeds. [From Gen. Rabbah 63:4]
בת בתואל מפדן ארם אחות לבן: וכי עדיין לא נכתב שהיא בת בתואל ואחות לבן ומפדן ארם, אלא להגיד שבחה שהיתה בת רשע ואחות רשע ומקומה אנשי רשע, ולא למדה ממעשיהם:
My Rebbe, Rabbi Leperer once asked, “where do we see the proof for Rashi. Where do we see that Rivka did not learn from their wickedness. And what was their wickedness? What was their “thing” as the youth of today say?
The answer is divination. Soothsaying. Trying to predict the future by various means. You remember that later on Rachel steals the “terafim” of her father Laban in an attempt to stop his idolatry. These terafim were instruments to divine the future.
Now Rivka wanted to know the future. The verse says:
22. And the children struggled within her, and she said, “If [it be] so, why am I [like] this?”
Having a very difficult pregnancy she wanted to know what he outcome would be. But the verse continues….
And she went to inquire of the Lord. כב. וַיִּתְרֹצֲצוּ הַבָּנִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ וַתֹּאמֶר אִם כֵּן לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרשׁ אֶת יְהֹוָה:
Immediately we have the proof for Rashi’s comment. She didn’t learn from her father, brother or the Arameans who would have resorted to divination or necromancy but she went to the yeshiva of Shem in order to inquire of the Lord.
Rabbi Meir Wise