Parashat Toldot (Offsprings) Genesis 25:19-28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
The first thing that one is told in this week’s Torah portion is that Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca for his wife. We have learned many times that numbers are important in the Bible. The number forty has to do with change or transition. Certainly marriage is a change and a transition for each individual. No sooner than the reader learns of this marriage (a restating of what occurred in the previous parashah) that the text states,
“And Isaac beseeched HaShem in view of his wife, for she was barren. And HaShem was beseeched to him (Isaac) and Rebecca his wife, conceived.” Genesis 25:21
This verse has great significance in many different matters. However, this article will only deal with one of these matters, namely the word which I translated as “beseeched”. In Hebrew, the word is עתר and although it can have a general meaning as “to submit a plea” there is contained in this word a “richness” or “abundance”. In Modern Hebrew the word can be added to imply “high” in calories or “intensive” as in labor intensive. Some dictionaries (Hebrew) define the word with the concept of prayer. Although this is true, there is a most important aspect to the prayer related to this word.
The word today can refer to a plea before a high court. Such a plea is not simply a request, but a request which includes numerous reasons why such a legal plea should be entertained by the court. In other words, there is a strong basis for the plea being granted. Hence, Isaac did not simply ask G-d to cause his wife to conceive, but apparently this pray was “enriched” with something. Before progressing, I have a question for you. How much time needs to expire before one would know that his wife was barren? Even if one should answer a couple of years or even five years, this means that it took 15 years for HaShem to be entreated to Isaac’s plea, because Rebecca did not deliver any children until Isaac was 60 years old, hence 20 years had passed since their marriage.
Whatever Isaac’s prayer was enriched with, it took a significant amount of time to do the enriching. The point is that there is preparation to prayer. In Judaism, before making an individual petition, often a selection of Psalms is read or charity is donated. Some will set aside time to fulfill a number of commandments. The greater the prayer request, the more involved the preparation. I am not saying that before petitioning Yeshua one needs to do A, B, and C in order to get a “yes” from our L-rd, but perhaps when hearing a request the response should not be “let’s pray about it” but taking time to enrich our prayers with behavior that demonstrates one’s commitment to not only G-d, but the things which are important to Him.
For those of you who know me, you know that I eat a lot of “junk” food. People tell me all the time that the food which I consume has been depleted of most of its nutrition. They are right. I need to change my dietary practices. Likewise, often our prayers are absent of the enriching qualities that will result in HaShem being beseeched or entreated to our petitions.
Pray this Shabbat on how you can enrich your prayers.
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