Was Isaac really Abraham's son?
This week’s parashah begins with the words, “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac” (Genesis 25:19). Like parashat Noach, this passage uses the word “generations,” toldot (תולדת) in Hebrew, to begin the story of Isaac’s adulthood. As we had described in the story of Noah, most of the time the word toldot is used in the Torah it is in relationship to genealogy, since its primary meaning is descendants or offspring. However, like we discovered of Noah, sometimes a person’s character or unique traits are listed as their toldot, rather than listing their physical offspring. This is the case again with Isaac. Rather than beginning with the birth of Jacob and Esau, the Torah describes the toldot of Isaac as, “Abraham fathered Isaac.” Why is this?
If we look back just a few chapters previous to parashat Veyeira, we are reminded of an event that happened with Sarah in Genesis 20. When Abraham and Sarah were journeying through his land, Abimelech, king of Gerar, abducted Sarah and took her for himself. He intended on making her either a wife or a concubine. However, the Torah explains that “Abimelech had not approached her” (Genesis 20:4) when God appeared to him in a dream and revealed to him that Sarah was married to Abraham. He explained to Abimelech that “it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her” (vs. 6). Mortified at the thought of taking another man’s wife and paying for it with his life, Abimelech promptly returned Sarah to her husband. After she was returned, Abraham prayed for Abimelech and his household to bear children, because “the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech” (vs. 18).