And these are the (Toldos) generations of Yitzchok the son of Avraham; Avraham begot Yitzchok. (Breishis 25:19)
Last year my wife and I were away at a Shabbaton for Parshas Toldos. In Shul on Shabbos morning, we were waiting for designated Torah reader to arrive and the Rabbi jumped up and started stalling for time. It was obvious he had not planned to speak. So for about five minutes or so it seemed he was rambling in search of a coherent thread.
People were looking at their watches and studying the back door where the Baal Koreh was expected to enter. In the meantime he dropped a pearl that I have come to appreciate more and more. It was a cute question, one I had never heard before, with a punchy answer that left a ringing in my ears.
Why is this week’s Parsha appropriately called “Toldos”? What should it be called? We find the same construction by Parshas Noach. “And these are the generations of Noach…” That Parsha is titled “Noach”. Therefore, this week’s Parsha should be called “Yitzchok” or that Parsha should be called “Toldos” as well.
Why is this Parsha called “Noach” and the other Prasha called “Toldos”? If they both begin with, “these are the (Toldos) generations of…” They should have the same name! Hmmmm!
The answer he gave went something like this. The story of Noach was about what happened to Noach. He found favor with HASHEM, he built an ark, his family was saved, and the world began to repopulate again until the spot light of history shifted to Avraham and his family.
These are the generations of Noach, Noach…. Noach was vulnerable to criticism for having failed to reach out to rescue the people of his generation. The (Toldos) generations of Noach is Noach…
The Avos, Avraham and Yitzchok were not interested in mere survival. They we involved in a multi-generational project to deliver the recognition of HASHEM Echod – One G-d, to the entire world. This mission would take the whole of human history to accomplish. It wasn’t going to happen in Avraham’s or Yitzchok’s lifetime. Their focus, the goal of their existence was not for or about themselves. Rather they were involved with paving a way to the future. Their reason for being was for Toldos- generations. Subsequently, for all of Jewish history, devoted parents are living to pass the baton to a generation that would successfully pass a baton till the last syllable of recorded history.
Rabbi Simcha Wasserman ztl. had a profound ability to encapsulate large subjects in a few brief words. I once heard him present the following analogy which he delivered in his sweet- broken yet sufficiently articulate English. “Suppose someone would invent a synthetic potato that tasted and smelled and looked like a real potato. How would be ever be able to tell the difference between the real one and the imposter? Simple! Just put them in the ground. The real potato will produce a potato.” The goal of parenting is to be that type of potato that produces a potato- that produces another potato.
This may be just a different way of saying the same thing, but I would like to say that the highest goal of parenting and all Torah education is to create a Kli Rishon. Allow me to briefly explain. A pot of food on a fire on Shabbos is called a Kli Rishon, a first generation of hot food. When that soup, let us say, is poured into a bowl, the bowl is categorized as a Kli Sheni, a second generation vessel. And so it goes with each dish further from the heat source. The temperature is continually diminishing until it is lukewarm and then eventual cold. The only way to regain the first fiery experience is to educate so as to recreate another Kli Rishon, a generation with the original fire.