The True Heritage of Israel
The name of this week’s parsha – Toldot – is taken from the opening verse of
the parsha – these are the toldot, the offspring and generations of
Yitzchak. It is therefore understandable that the parsha should be named and
remembered as the parsha of Toldot since that it is the key operative word.
However, there is an exactly similar series of words that begin parshat
Noach – these are the toldot of Noach. Yet that Torah parsha is not Toldot
but rather it is named for Noach.
For the sake of consistency either our parsha should be named for Yitzchak
or the parsha of Noach should be called Toldot as well. Even the naming of
the parshiyot of the Torah teaches us important lessons about life and history.
Both Noach and Yitzchak had righteous offspring. Noach had Shem and Yitzchak
had Yaakov. Both also had offspring that were less than righteous. Noach had
Ham and Canaan, and Yitzchak had Eisav as a son. Yet there was a fundamental
difference between Noach and Yitzchak.
Yitzchak possessed a heritage to transmit to Yaakov. The blessings that he
bestowed upon his son were those that he had received from his father
Avraham. It is heritage, family and national memory and traditions that
create toldot, a continuity and connection to generational bonding and unity.
Noach was without such a background – he was a righteous individual, but
still only an individual, who did not see himself in the role of being a
nation builder. He did not possess a father who imbued him with a sense of
tradition, family and nationhood. Avraham on the other hand was described by
God, so to speak, as someone who would create a nation after him that would
follow God’s ways and commandments.
It was this heritage that Yitzchak received. He was also engaged not only in
creating individuals as was Noach but rather in raising toldot – national
eternal generations - that would continue the heritage and holy tradition
that he had received from his father. Thus Yitzchak’s parsha is named Toldot
while Noach’s parsha remains only on his name alone.
The Torah itself emphasizes this point by immediately describing Yitzchak as
being the son of Avraham whereas in the parsha of Noach, the name of the
father of Noach no longer appears. The Jewish people as a whole has toldot
even as individual Jews may or may not be so blessed.
The toldot of the Jewish people are based upon shared memory and historical
experience, Torah knowledge and observance, a sense of mission and a strong
national identity. The thread of idealism, of helping others, of goodness
and compassion – in short, the blessings of our father Avraham, run through
the Jewish story of the ages.
We often think that material goods and wealth are the stuff of human
inheritances. But that is a false reading of life’s truths. It is the ideals
and beliefs and traditions of holiness and Godly service that are the true
heritage of Israel and guarantee that the people of Israel will always have
Rabbi Berel Wein