Toldot is a fascinating portion. It has the famous story of the birth of Esau and Jacob, the birthright and the blessing (27) and the repetition of many themes that we find in Genesis, for example sibling issues, infertility , the so-called wife-sister motif and internal family issues, The commentaries delight in trying to deal with the myriad of challenges. Yet, as I looked at this passage this year, I could not help but think of the issue of legacy. The twins compete for dad’s favor and his blessing, we search for the true Isaac and the passage ends with Joseph being sent to Haran to secure a wife as his parents do not wish him to marry outside of the tribe. In the midst of all the turmoil is the theme of the future.
For many Boomers, this is a strange time. We are gettng very cosncious of our own aging, yet, feel well enough to be engaged in an active life. We are at a challenging time of trying to hold on to our roles, while at the same time seeing those roles changed and/or our place in those roles negotiated. The Isaac passages in Torah can be seen, I suggest, as symbolic of some of this. Look at 26:18. Isaac and Rebecca have gone to Gerar to escape another famine. As the story unfolds, Isaac comes to a wadi and “Isaac dug anew the water wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham…”. Now the well has a transitional meaning in Torah, something important always seems to happen at the well. After some negotiating issues, another well is dug, it brings water and God appears to Isaac renewing the promise of a future. I think that this story has meaning for us and our age.
It may be saying that at a certain point in life we come to see that the next generation is called upon to re-dig the wells we dug. That each generation must re-vision and renew what we have done and do it in their way. We may, we Boomers, be reaching that moment now. We are no longer the largest generational cohort. Our legacy is now being transferred to our next generation and no matter what we say or do, that will not change. This is not a call to rest, rather it may be a call to support and mentor those who now begin to assume influence and power. It may reflect changing relationships within our own families. It will reflect the continuing tension between what we hold on to and what we must let go of. The frustration is that we cannot control the wells that the this next generation will dig. We can hope we have taught them well, taught them values and beliefs that will sustain them and allow them to make sacred choices. We can be there to support and encourage, offer advice and lend a hand. But it is becoming their time and we hope and pray that what we have done will serve as a legacy of blessing. L’dor va’dor (from generation to generation), the prayer we sing so often, now takes on new meaning for it is becoming very real.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.