The Rabbi Will Serve the Disciple

The reading this Shabbat, November 21, 2020 is from Parashat Toldot, Genesis 25:19-28:9. The Haftarah from the prophets is from Malachi 1:1-2:7. The reading from the New Testament is from Romans 9:1-31.

Both Noah and Isaac had righteous offspring. Noah had Shem and Isaac had Jacob. Both also had offspring that were not so righteous. Noah had Ham and Canaan, and Yitzchak had Esau.

There is a fundamental difference between Noah and Isaac.

Isaac had a heritage to transmit to Jacob, a spiritual inheritance. The blessings that Isaac gave his son were those that he had received from his father Abraham. It is heritage, family and national memory and traditions that create “toldot” (history), a continuity and connection to generational bonding and unity.

During these crazy days of the pandemic when almost everything is in disarray and the future of the whole world is unsure, our readings are supposed to bring some divine perspective from our past towards our future. The biblical and Jewish paradigm of Toldot, history, means in Hebrew: “The deeds of the fathers are a sign (a prophetic path) for the children with regard to sin.”

Future generations form a chain of history by their deeds; it’s like a linked chain leading to the end.

It is interesting to see here in the Bible, how our personal past shapes and directs our future, and the future of our children. This is one of the amazing things that the Lord has given us, an intense effect on future generations. The word “toldot” means “birthings”. How we live our lives affects the lives of our future generations, not only their physical life, but also the paths they take as well as their relationship with the Almighty God patterns that our actions plant in the souls of our children.

This is something that since the 18th century AD, humanity has neglected. The industrial revolution promoted economic progress, but took away from the nuclear family the very matrix that made the human being a creature created in the image and form of the Creator.

So, here you have it in this reading from Genesis 25:19 – 28:9, the good the bad and the ugly. In the most formative and important family in the history of salvation we have every human emotion, and the good is mixed with the bad and the bad has some good in it, and the future of humanity’s salvation is always hanging by a hair.

The amazing thing is that it all starts in Rebecca’s womb, where twin boys are fighting each other and competing with each other even before they come out of her womb, and even before they’re seeing the light of day.

“Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If all is well, why am I like this?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord.” – Genesis 25:21-22 [NKJV]

Have you ever considered this interesting fact that all the mothers of the nation of Israel were not able to conceive and have children naturally? They were all “barren”.

Sara, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, all had to have a miracle to give birth to children. Why do you think this is so? Why does the Lord who created man and woman and blessed them (or if you wish cursed them) to give birth to children and to replenish the earth with a population that is now exceeding the 9 billion and approaching the 10 billion mark, start with barren mothers?

I have considered this question for a long time: Why did God want to be clearly involved in the out of the ordinary births of the major historical heroes and villains in the path to the salvation of humanity?

My answer to this is simple, the Lord wanted us to know that there is the natural, but there is also beyond the natural the Lord God the Creator of the universe who has never abdicated His involvement in His creation.

Of course the most out of the ordinary, is the birth of Yeshua our Messiah that is not a birth given by a barren woman, but a birth given by a woman who knew no man!

The important part in this Torah reading for me is the simplicity of humanity with its beauty and with its good and at the same time from the same people you see the selfishness, and the manipulative behavior, the good and the bad mixed and interwoven tightly like a fine Persian carpet.

Every character in this text has good qualities and bad qualities. Every character is blessed and everyone has major weaknesses. There is grace and truth in all of the biblical characters, but especially in this particular parasha of God’s word.

The first word “toldot”, translated as “genealogy”, is the most powerful element of the divine comedy and tragedy that makes up the Bible. For me this is dramatic because everything that happens in Genesis influences Yeshua and the New Testament. Here’s just one example:

“And the Lord said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.’” – Genesis 25:23 [NKJV]

The last phrase in this prophecy is, “And the older shall serve the younger.” In transliterated Hebrew it looks like this: “ve-rav ya’avod zayer.” In the Hebrew language of the Second Temple it would be translated as, “The rabbi will serve the disciple.”

In the dramatic scene of Yeshua washing the feet of his disciples before the Passover Seder meal, the conversation is based on this text in Genesis. Here is the text from John 13:

“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’” – John 13:12–14 [NKJV]

“Teacher” in Hebrew is “rav”, “rabbi”, and I am serving you by washing your feet. This is the calling of those who are chosen by God to serve Him, to serve His disciples, to serve even the Esau’s of this world. This whole scene in John 13 is based on the prophetic promises given to Rebecca in Genesis.

We have another allusion to the Genesis portion of the reading for this Shabbat, and it is from Romans 9:10-12, that also sees the story of Genesis as an obligatory prophetic example for the relationship of the Gentile nations to Israel.

“And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’” – Romans 9:10–12 [NKJV]

In fact the apostle Paul in his last notes in Romans says it clearly:

“‘But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.’” – Romans 15:25–27 [NKJV]

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.