Like Father, Like Son

Has it ever happened to you that you call a friend, and when the phone is answered you mistakenly confuse the person speaking with their parent? It happens all the time. Indeed children often sound like their parents. Not only in tone of voice, but also in mannerisms and pronunciations. It’s not uncommon for children to grow up and differentiate themselves from their parents, there always remains the parental imprint on the children.

The first verse in our Parsha this week requires interpretation.

וְאֵ֛לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֥ת יִצְחָ֖ק בֶּן־אַבְרָהָ֑ם אַבְרָהָ֖ם הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־יִצְחָֽק׃ 

These are the generations of Isaac, son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac.

How repetitive! We are taught that there is no extra word or even letter in the Torah. So why does the Torah advance a seemingly superfluous phrase. If it says, “These are the generations of Isaac the son of Abraham, is it not obvious that Abraham begot Isaac? There must be something much deeper to be learned here.

The Talmud explains that since Abraham and Sarah were not blessed with a child until Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 and she became pregnant right after she was abducted by King Abimelech, there were scoffers who started rumors stating that the  biological father of Isaac is actually Abimelech. Therefore G-d ensured that Isaac was the spitting image of his father to prove that Abraham was indeed the biological father. Now the verse reads perfectly, These are the generations of Isaac, son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac.

Looks, however, are not the only thing that Isaac resembled his father. The Parsha is filled with similarities in the life of Isaac that mirrored the life of his father.

Some examples:

  • There was a famine in Canaan that required Abraham to travel for food, so too Isaac.
  • Abraham’s wife was abducted by a King Abimelech, so was Isaac’s.
  • Abraham dug wells and named them; Isaac dug up the same wells after they fell into disuse and gave them the same names.
  • Abraham made a treaty with Abimelech, so did Isaac.
  • Abraham had two sons and only one carried the torch of Judaism forward, the same is true with Isaac

The Torah is demonstrating to us just how much children learn to live from their parents, and how they carry those lessons forward in their own lives.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence