Isaac Prays for Rebekah

The Talmud says, “Why were our ancestors barren? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, longs to hear the prayer of the righteous” (b.Yevamot 64a).

A man prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Photo: © Bigstock/rglinsky)

Toldot

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Toldot (תּוֹלְדוֹת | Family history)
  • Torah: Genesis 25:19-28:9
  • Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
  • Gospel: Matthew 10:21-38

Regular readings above are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule for all these variations, and special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 25:19 | The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob
    • Genesis 25:29 | Esau Sells His Birthright
    • Genesis 26:1 | Isaac and Abimelech
    • Genesis 26:34 | Esau's Hittite Wives
    • Genesis 27:1 | Isaac Blesses Jacob
    • Genesis 27:30 | Esau's Lost Blessing
    • Genesis 27:41 | Jacob Escapes Esau's Fury
    • Genesis 28:6 | Esau Marries Ishmael's Daughter
  • Prophets
    • Mal 1:1 | Introduction
    • Mal 1:2 | Israel Preferred to Edom
    • Mal 1:6 | Corruption of the Priesthood

Portion Summary

The sixth reading from the book of Genesis is named Toldot, which means "generations." It is so named because the Torah portion begins with the words "Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac" (Genesis 25:19). Toldot tells us the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau and their struggle for the birthright and blessing of their father, Isaac. We also learn about Isaac's trials and difficulties in the land of Canaan. The portion concludes with Jacob's deception of Isaac in order to procure the family blessing.


Just as Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren, Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, was also unable to bear children. For twenty years she and Isaac tried to have a child. It is normal for a couple to desire children, but for Isaac it was critical. He was the inheritor of the great promises given to his father Abraham. If he did not have children, those promises could not be passed on to the next generation. Isaac turned to the LORD and entreated Him on behalf of Rebekah.

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. (Genesis 25:21)
The Talmud says, “Why were our ancestors barren? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, longs to hear the prayer of the righteous” (b.Yevamot 64a).

Rashi makes two notes on the Hebrew wording of Genesis 25:21. When it says that Isaac prayed, it uses a word that implies entreaty. Rashi explains that this means Isaac persistently prayed on her behalf. We can assume that Isaac had been praying throughout the twenty years of her barrenness. That’s persistent prayer.

Yeshua teaches us to pray persistently. He said persistent prayer can be compared to a widow who continually entreated the local judge to hear her case. Though the judge neither feared God nor respected men, he decided to hear her case lest she wear him out with her nagging. If persistent entreaty works on an unjust judge who neither fears God nor men, how much more so will the just Judge of the universe be moved to answer our entreaties.

Yeshua told another parable about the power of persistent prayer. He compared it to a man who needed to borrow food from his neighbor to feed an unexpected guest, but his neighbor had already gone to bed. The man continued to entreat his neighbor until the man eventually got out of bed and gave him what he needed. If persistent entreaty works on a lazy, reluctant neighbor, how much more so on God, who neither slumbers nor sleeps. (Luke 11:5-8) Yeshua encouraged us to pray persistently, saying, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).

Rashi makes a second observation on the Hebrew wording of Genesis 25:21. He notes that the Hebrew says that “Isaac entreated the LORD opposite his wife.” Rashi explains, “Isaac stood in one corner and prayed while Rebekah stood in the opposite corner and prayed.” In other words, Isaac and Rebekah prayed together.

The LORD heard the prayers of Isaac and Rebekah and answered by allowing Rebekah to conceive. Just as Sarah’s conception of Isaac was a direct miraculous intervention of God, so too with Rebekah. There is great power in the entreaties of a husband and wife who commit to praying together.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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