Thought of the Week: Toldos - 5782


A few years ago, a well-known journalist wrote an article where he argued that for a US president, the only way to be considered a true friend of Israel is by "Saving Israel from Itself.”  The writer's desire was for the US government to pressure Israel on matters of security, and at the same time, have the right to claim that it is done for the good of the Jews. Such behavior is, unfortunately, not new, but rather, has its roots in our Paresha.

The Torah tells us that after Yitzchak settled in the land of the Philistines he was blessed with "many flocks and herds and servants." Regrettably, his success was painful for the local Philistines, and they envied him.  Avimelech, their king, turned to Yitzchak and told him, “Move away from us, you have become too powerful.”

At some point after these events, Avimelech paid a visit to Yitzchak.  “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?” asked Yitzchak.

Avimelech answered, “We saw clearly that Hashem was with you, so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us.  Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you, but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully."

Avimelech’s statement is quite puzzling.  How can he claim to have treated Yitzchak well, after sending him away?

Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (1820-1892) in his book Beit Halevi notes that Avimelech, the king of the Philistines, was a shrewd politician. Although early on he disliked Yitzchak and was jealous of his success, , when Avimelech felt that an alliance with Yitzchak would be beneficial, Avimelech claimed that the expulsion of Yitzchak and his family from their homes and land - a land where Hashem told Yitzchak to live - was for Yitzchak's security, so that his estate would be protected from the locals, and that he could live in peace.  Thus, Avimelech's pressure and mistreatment of the Jew was "for the sake of the Jew".

Shabbat Shalom