Toledot: A Father’s Defence

Esau spurned his birthright.
He married wives who were
a source of bitterness to me.
He plotted to kill his brother.
And yet I loved him.
One day, when You come
to judge Your people for their sins,
I will rise to defend them!
For I will say to You,
“I had a wayward child
and I loved him.
Can You not do the same?”

The JPS commentary, the Etz Hayim, says that the sages envision Isaac demanding that God will suspend harsh judgement on His people out of love for them, even if they have strayed, just as Isaac bestowed such love on Esau. Isaac is considered to be uniquely placed to defend his descendants. Firstly, because he loved Esau unconditionally despite Esau’s very different lifestyle which was not conducive to transmitting Abraham’s spiritual legacy. Moreover, Elie Wiesel comments in his book, Messengers of God: Biblical Portraits and Legends, that Isaac is entitled to ask anything of God. He asks, “Because he suffered? No. Suffering, in Jewish tradition, confers no privileges. It all depends on what one makes of that suffering. Isaac knew how to transform it into prayer and love rather than into rancour and malediction. This is what gives him rights and powers no other man possesses.”


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