Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Toldot - 5777

Dear friends,

This week's Parasha begins with the words, "This is the story of Isaac the son of Abraham, Abraham begot Isaac."

As we go thru this Parasha, we don't really learn much about Isaac's life. The main characters in the story are his wife Rebecca, and his twin sons Esau and Jacob. We learn that Rebecca was barren and that they had no children for 20 years. Isaac prayed on behalf of Rebecca and G-d responded to his plea and his wife Rebecca conceived.

We can assume that Isaac also wanted a child and that Rebecca also prayed to G-d for a child. From the words "G-d responded to his plea on behalf of his wife", we learn that G-d responded to Isaac's pleading on behalf of Rebecca, rather that Rebecca or Isaac's pleading for themselves. How come? This illustrates a well-known Talmudic teaching by our sages which states:

"One who prays for another and is in need of the same thing is answered first."

Having someone else's well-being in our heart before worrying for ourselves indicates a level of compassion that is genuine and worthy of being accepted by G-d.

In the "Mee Sheberach" prayer, when we pray for healing and mention someone by name, that prayer ends with 'Shear Haholim', our prayer that G-d provide healing to the person among all those who are sick - 'Shear Haholim'. The idea is, if you already have G-d's attention, how selfish would it be if you only pray for yourself or the one person you care about. As a caring human being, you are expected to include all those who are in need of physical and/or spiritual healing.

Isaac was answered because he was more concerned about the well-being of his wife rather than his own need to be a father.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram