Off the Pulpit

The First Time

This week records something remarkable in the Torah. Sarah and Abraham both die and for the first time in Jewish history, there is a next generation. The admonition we read in the Shema – “And you shall teach it to your children” (Deut. 11:9) – is the building block of the future.

Isaac in that special sense has a harder task than Abraham, because it is often harder to continue than to begin. After all, Abraham and Sarah brought something new in the world following the word of God; Isaac must first follow the word of Abraham and Sarah.

Together with Rebeka, Isaac is a tenuous thread, the single linkage between the awesome command given to Abraham and the dramatic events and promises given to Jacob and the twelve tribes. But he succeeded, proving what the child in synagogue told my colleague years ago when asked how she came to learn her Torah lessons so well: “It runs in the family.”