There are several parshiot about Abraham and about his grandson Jacob, but Isaac’s life is dealt with mainly in one, i.e. Tol’dot. Of course, he appears in the previous parsha of Chayay Sarah and in subesequent ones, but it seems almost as a secondary character, someone to whom things happen, rather than as someone shaping his own fate. Even in Tol’dot, there are things done to him, while he remains rather helpless. Under Rebecca’s guidance, Jacob deceives him into thinking that he is Esau and so gains the blessing which was meant by his father for his older brother. Many years earlier, in Va-yeira, Issac took part in one of the most pivotal stories of the Torah, namely the Akidah, but again his is a passive, though potentially tragic, role. He is the victim, in no way the perpetrator.
Yet there is one episode, or narrative thread, in which Isaac does play an active part. Like his father before him, he experiences famine and goes to the Philistine king, another Abimelech, for possible help. He also pretends that his wife is his sister and, as happened to Abraham years before, is reproached but then offered royal protection for him and his family. And like his father before him, Isaac prospers, has problems with his neighbours over land and water, but manages to resolve them and to live in peace. All through these trials, he is true to God, and God blesses him. Finally, despite having been fooled by his younger son and his own wife, Isaac blesses Jacob again, this time freely, and sends him to Padan Aram to seek a wife from his uncle Laban’s family.
It is with Jacob’s journey to his uncle’s house that Vayetze begins. Early on in the journey, he has the first of his great dreams, that of the angels descending from and ascending to heaven, and God blesses him and, through him, us and, through us, all the families of the earth. What a blessing and what a responsibility are carried in a few lines. Jacob reaches his uncle’s house, meets his uncle’s two daughters and falls in love with Rachel and not with Leah, from which much will flow, but this is enough for now. The best way to read and hear more is to come this Shabbat to the service which will take place from 10.30. Adam Feldman will lead and enlighten us.