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Thriving in Hard Times

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The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.” — Genesis 26:2–3

The Torah portion for this week, Toldot, which means “offspring,” is from Genesis 25:19—28:9, and the Haftorah is from Malachi 1:1–2:7.

Genesis 26 is almost a replay of Genesis 12, which we read a few weeks ago. Genesis 12 recounts Abraham and Sarah’s experience when there was a famine in Canaan. In Genesis 26, we read about Isaac and Rebekah’s similar experience during such a famine. In Genesis 12, Abraham was promised the land of Canaan for his descendants, and in Genesis 26, the same promise was reiterated to Isaac. In Genesis 12, Abraham moved to Egypt because of the famine, where he told the people that Sarah was his sister so that he wouldn’t be killed by the locals who might desire his wife. In Genesis 26, Isaac moved to Gerar because of the famine, where he told the people that Rebekah was his sister for the same reason that his father had said this about Sarah.

In both stories, Abraham and Isaac emerged from the ordeal with their wives by their sides, and they also emerged very wealthy. However, there is one major difference. While Abraham became wealthy in Egypt as the people showered him with gifts because of Sarah’s beauty and then later on out of respect for the holy couple, Isaac was told specifically not to go to Egypt. God did not allow Isaac to leave Israel, so he went to Gerar, which was within Israel’s boundaries. Rather than being showered with gifts, God promised to prosper Isaac despite the famine. He said to Isaac, “Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you . . .”

True to His word, God did bless Isaac. Isaac planted crops in the arid land and reaped a hundredfold that very same year. While the neighbors around Isaac were withering in the famine, the verse tells us that Isaac became a very wealthy man because God was with him and blessed him.

This is such an important image for us to keep in our minds. We need to remember that our success isn’t formed by the conditions around us. Our provisions come from God and God alone. I love how the prophet Jeremiah put it: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

For the one who trusts in God, there will always be provisions. God can prosper us in a desert and cause us to bear fruit in a famine. We need to place our trust exclusively in God. In His name we prosper and by His word we are blessed.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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