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Parshat Toldot

The beginning of Parshat Toldot [the Torah portion, Toldot] reintroduces us to the birth of Yitzchak Avinu [our father, Isaac] as it begins to detail his legacy as the second of our forefathers. The Parsha [Torah portion] begins “v’eileh toldot Yitzchak ben Avraham, Avraham holid et Yitzchak” [” And these are the generations of Yitzchak, Avraham’s son, Avraham begot Yitzchak…”]. Many commentators have asked the question why there is repetition. The commentaries wonder what the second half of this pasuk [verse] is teaching us, since the verse already explained that Avraham was Yitzchak’s father.

The commentator Ibn Ezra explains that the declaration “Avraham holid et Yizchak” is referring to Yitzchak’s education. Having fathered Yishmael, Avraham Avinu knew full well what it was like to have a child at risk. This time he took no chances. Not only did Avraham father Yitzchak biologically, but he also reared him to follow his teachings! According to Ibn Ezra this is the meaning  of “holid“.  Thus the use of the verb “holid” indicates that Avraham raised and personally educated Yitzchak. Ibn Ezra brings proof that is the meaning of “holid” from the use of the same verb with reference to the grandchildren of  Yosef: “Vayuldu al birkei Yosef“. This does not mean that they were fathered by or born on Yosef’s lap, but rather that they were educated by Yosef. Ibn Ezra maintains that Avraham got his wish and was able to raise Yitzchak in his customs and tradition.

The commentator Obadiah Sforno notes that in the Torah portion Lech Lecha, Avraham says to Hashem [G-d] that he has no children and that the “Ben meshek” of his house is Eliezer. Sforno explains that Avraham‘s meaning was that he had no son to take over his mantle and while he may have a son in the future, he may be too old for him to have the opportunity to educate him.

In a similar vein, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, the Sfas Emes, explains that Avraham was concerned that he would be too advanced in age to teach his son according to his customs. The Sfas Emes brings proof from the Gemara [Talmud] in Yoma which explains that Eliezer was called “damesek” [from the word “mashke”-to give to drink] because he disseminated Avraham’s teachings to the masses. However, Avraham wanted his son to be able to perform this task.

 

Rashi [the commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki] quotes the Chazal [our Sages of blessed memory] telling us that “Avraham holid et Yitzchak” is mentioned to teach us that Yitzchak looked exactly like his father and anyone who saw him knew that “Avraham holid et Yitzchak“, only Avraham could be his father (and not Avimelech, as the cynics/jokers of the generation had posited). The cynics of the time could not have then been taken seriously, because Avraham had already fathered Yishmael with Hagar and that they were having a joke at Avraham’s expense.

This presents the question – if they were just jokers why did they even need to be dignified with a response? The answer is that in future generations these jokers’ positions might be taken seriously and people might seek to revise history and opine that the lineage of the Jews did not descend through Yitzchak.

When Eisenhower was commanding the American troops at the close of WWII he instructed them to take film footage of the concentration camps so that the atrocities of the Holocaust could not later be forgotten. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s efforts to prevent Holocaust denial occurred after American troops discovered the Ohrdruf labor camp, a sub-camp of theBuchenwaldconcentration camp, on April 4, 1945. Eisenhower ordered all available American troops to go and witness the horrors he’d just seen. He also forced German citizens and officials from nearby towns to do the same.

He understood that there must be a record, first-hand evidence and incontrovertible answers to those who would deny the Holocaust.

 

Who could have imagined that sixty years later, people would begin to doubt whether there was a Holocaust or whether it was on such a large scale. Even though there are still survivors who give first-hand accounts of the atrocities, there are people who seek, for political gain, to deny that the Holocaust ever occurred.  Eisenhower was prescient in preserving the memory of the six million by ordering film documentation of the camp carnage to avoid the onslaught of the present generation of “jokers” who seek to deny the existence of the Holocaust.

In a similar vein Chazal [our Sages of blessed memory] tell us that “Avraham holid et Yitzchak” is mentioned to teach us that Yitzchak looked exactly like his father was like a picture copy and anyone who saw him knew that “Avraham holid et Yitzchak“, only Avraham could be his father (and not Avimelech, as the cynics/jokers of the generation had posited).

 

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