Isaac and Reviving Our Traditions

For the Shabbat of December 2-3, 2016, 3 Kislev 5777

Parashat Toldot

The Book of Genesis, Chapter 25, Verse 19, through Chapter 28, Verse 9

Isaac’s life is the focus of this week’s Torah reading.

Isaac had great success – it says that he “sowed in that land, and reaped in that year a hundred measures” (Genesis 26:12) – and this was the way God blessed him.

Isaac also worked on digging and re-digging the wells that Abraham his father had dug (Genesis 26:18). 

Our scholars use this idea to emphasize the importance of our efforts in every generation. Going down the paths and doing the things that our parents and grandparents did still gives us the chance to do it our own way and make our own personal opportunities for success.

We can say about all that we do. Even something that we have received as a tried and true strategy from the past, we must aim to refresh it and do it in a new and updated manner. Isaac’s success may be tied to his capacity to follow a well-trod trail and still make it his own.

Just because something has worked before, we must reinvent and reinvigorate it as we do it again.

As Jews, and especially as Reform Jews, we embrace the idea that in every generation we can make progress even as we use the methods and ideas that we inherited from our great ancestors.

In this season of well-worn traditions, I hope we can all unite to celebrate the past, and update it as we continue to build a better future together.