Written by Rabbi Dan Grossman
Surely every child is a unique gift.
The story of our ancestors begins the year with a story of a child, a gift, unique and beloved. The child of Abraham and Sara, Yitzhak (Isaac), the child of laughter, is a unique and special person. The Torah shares several images of Isaac as a special child, without attempting to hide the facts, or influence our image of Isaac.
- Isaac is the only adult male member of Abraham’s family who not only does not make a life changing journey. Isaac is instructed never to leave the land of Israel.
- Isaac is the only patriarch who does not select his own wife. His father, Abraham, sends the family servant to bring a wife for Isaac back to the Land of Israel.
- Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, seems to direct most of the choices made in the story and Isaac makes very few of his own choices.
- Isaac clearly favors Essau, the more physical and less intellectual of his two sons. Isaac is also easily tricked by Jacob with the ruse of the hairy coat, in spite of the fact that most blind people would pick up multiple clues and be able to distinguish one brother from the other.
None of these comments are meant to diminish the image of Isaac. Rather, I believe these clear references to Isaac’s unique circumstances show us a Torah image that accepts each person as they are. There is no need to avoid or alter our images of Isaac. The text presents us with neither undue admiration nor pity, but rather a straight forward description of his strengths and weaknesses. It was later commentators who felt compelled to explain, excuse, or see as metaphors, the unique aspects of Isaac’s life.
May we find the strength to return to the Torah image of each person – unique in his/her own way. Like Isaac, all a gift to life in their own right. Each person, contributing to the world according to their abilities. May each child be viewed like Isaac – a matan, a gift to their parents and a gift to the Jewish people.
Rabbi Daniel T. Grossman led Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville, New Jersey for 25 years. He’s a graduate of Temple University, Hebrew University, Mirkaz HaRav Kook in Jerusalem and the Reconstructionist Rabbincal College. Rabbi Grossman also works in the field of Jewish Special Education and co-wrote and participated in the video “Someone is Listening,” the story of a young deaf Jew and his search for fulfillment as a Jewish adult.