Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Toldot - 5776

My friends,

This Parasha deals with our ancestors Isaac and Rebecca and the beginning of the life story of Jacob.

Abraham left Canaan for Egypt because of a famine in Canaan. The same happens many years later to Isaac. There was a famine in the land, and on the way to Egypt, Isaac stops in Gerar, in the land of the Philistines. G-d appears to him and tells him not to leave the Promised Land, because all the blessings that were promised to Abraham will be fulfilled in Isaac and in his descendants.

When the famine is over, Isaac the farmer is very successful and he becomes very rich. The Philistines are jealous and they deny him water by filling the wells up with earth. Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, expels him from Gerar.

Isaac moves with his family away from Gerar and digs new wells, but the locals quarrel with him and he has to move further. When he digs another well and the locals leave him alone, he names the place Rehovoth, hoping that now G-d will help him settle and become fruitful again.

In Jewish tradition, anti-semitism was born in Gerar. What happened to Isaac in Gerar has been repeated again and again in many places where our exile had taken us. Isaac was denied water, a vital source for sustenance and survival. We know too well how Jews were denied certain professions and restricted from owning land or pursuing jobs like all the locals.

Witness what happened this week. The European Union will require Israel to label all products they export to Europe, to indicate whether they were produced or made in what Europe calls 'occupied territory'. They include the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and any area that was captured by Israel in 1967 - which means that Europe has already determined which areas will always be called 'occupied' even though such determination is supposed to come after there is a peace agreement with new, secure borders for Israel.

This is nothing more than a continuation of the historical anti-semitic approach to the Jews, denying them the means for sustenance and livelihood. Our sages teach us מעשי אבות סימן לבנים - the events in our ancestors' lives repeat themselves in the lives of their descendants.

Let us hope that our people will also find a well (i.e., a source of sustenance) just like Isaac found the well of water he named Rehovot. Today's Rehovot in Israel is where the Weitzman Institute of Science is headquartered. This institute has made significant contributions that have benefited Israel and Humanity.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram