Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Health Dose of Torah–Toldot
In all things, except for the Green Bay Packers, I cheer for the underdog. With Green Bay; now they are good, but they weren’t always. Since I was seven years old, through thick and thin, I am a “Cheesehead,” a Packer fan. In most everything else, I want to see the underdog at least hold the respect of the favorite. Whether sports, politics, or even a spelling bee, I pull for the one who know one believes has a chance to win.In all things, except for the Green Bay Packers, I cheer for the underdog. With Green Bay; now they are good, but they weren’t always. Since I was seven years old, through thick and thin, I am a “Cheesehead,” a Packer fan. In most everything else, I want to see the underdog at least hold the respect of the favorite. Whether sports, politics, or even a spelling bee, I pull for the one who know one believes has a chance to win.
For 27 years of Rabbinical study, I always viewed Isaac as the “weak link” between the powerful Abraham and the more powerful Jacob/Israel. The Torah does not share much about Isaac, except that he has a brother (Ishmael) that his mother hates, dad almost killed him atop a mountain, he passes his wife off as his sister to save his skin, and he has twins who are at war with each other from within his wife’s womb. When his father’s servant went to find Isaac a wife, the servant never even mentioned his name to the bride’s family. One has to wonder when Rebekah learned this piece of news. He gets old and his wife and one son deceives him into sharing the blessing die the oldest with the youngest. Oh yeah, his name, Yitzchak, means joke or laughter. Yet, he is an absolutely necessary link in the chain of our story. One cannot get to Jacob without going through Isaac (although there exists one passage where Torah refers to Abraham as Jacob’s father and not grandfather). So, committed to underdogs, I always fought for Isaac’s dignity.
Poor Isaac. That is, “poor Isaac” until today. In passing, I read that Isaac dug wells. He redug the one his father opened and opened new ones of his own. I relooked at his story. He faced death at his father’s hand, had a difficult marriage, had sons who made his life challenging, and yet, he never complained. He gave us water, and while never being thanked for it and having to endure so much, he kept giving and never complained about his plight in life. He kept giving … life’s very essence: water. Through it all, he felt blessed enough to be able to pass on the patriarch’s blessing to his child. The Rabbis debate whether or not the blind Isaac knew he was blessing Jacob or not, but one has to feel blessed to share a blessing, at all.
My first thought was to thrust my fist in the air and shout for joy (much like I do when I see sports teams help some disability suffering child hit a “home run,” “shoot a basket,” or “run for a touchdown”). I see this happen and I cry and celebrate humanity all in the same moment. Ok, redeeming Isaac isn’t quite the same, but maybe it should be. In the race for most important patriarch, Isaac usually is the underdog.Every day, we tire of people complaining. The number of times I have to remind myself that my problems are mostly “first world” problems. “My cell phone is not working right,” versus, “My home and water supply were destroyed in the storm and I have no place for shelter and no way to drink.” Most of our problems are inconveniences. Isaac had real tzooris (Yiddish for “really big problems”), and yet, through it all he made sure life sustained with his wells and blind and near the end of his years he still felt blessed. Maybe we need to rethink this Patriarchs’ role, and maybe, just maybe, he may be the greater paradigm for each of us. I think it says somewhere that the meek (underdog) will inherit the earth. Maybe this is true, because while those of us insistent on leading the pack stay distracted, people like Isaac just keep making sure that the job of living gets done.So, here is the big question. How many people do we dismiss because they don’t make headlines, or because we don’t see what they do to make our lives so much better? Who do we take for granted out of our own lack of vision, even while their commitment to us is unwavering? It is time we look at each other with more intention, with a greater desire to see each other’s blessings, both patent and latent. Each of us has incredible gifts to offer, even when they are not the gifts that don’t shine in lit up Vegas hotel style marquees. Take time to get to know people and not just dismiss them as you walk by. You have no idea how interconnected we are. You have no idea who, like Isaac, does so much to hold the world together without ever asking for credit. Shabbat Shalom!