Would you believe that this week’s Torah portion dedicates a significant amount of time discussing our forefather Yitzchok’s dealing with Avimelech the King of Philistines in the land of Gerar. Gerar is located in the southern coastal area of the land of Israel, a.k.a. Gaza.
In 4000 years, nothing has changed. The Torah tells us that the people of Gerar were jealous of Yitzchok’s wealth and success and Avimelech asked him to leave the area.
Before doing so, the people in Yitzchok’s entourage re-dug the wells of water that once belonged to his father Avraham, which the Philistines had stuffed up. Yitzchok called the three wells of water by the same names that his father called them. The Medrash points out that two out of our three patriarchs’ names were changed. Avram’s name was changed to Avraham and Yaacov’s name was changed to Yisroel. Yitzchok’s name was never changed. A reason offered is because Yitzchok specifically called the names of the re-dug wells by the same names that his father called them.
Since Yitzchok valued and upheld the names his father called these wells, demonstrating a deep connection to his father’s practice, reasoning and tradition, he merited that his name remained unchanged.
After Yitzchok left Gerar the Torah relates that Avimelech the King of Philistines came to Yitzchok to make a peace treaty with him. The Torah tells us that Yitzchok was quite surprised at this change of heart. Avimelech explained to Yitzchok that after he left Gerar their economy tanked, and they realized that Yitzchok’s presence among them was a source of blessing for them. Avimelech felt that a treaty with Yitzchok would re-establish his connection to Gerar and the land would be blessed.
It is interesting to note that this was not the first treaty that Avimelech made. The Torah previously relates that Avimelech made a treaty with Avraham. We see how long that treaty lasted.
The Daas Zekainim M’Baalei Tosfos (1200’s) gives us a stunning analogy of the attitude of Avimelech and the people of Gerar, which is so apropos to modern day Hamas in Gaza.
The King of the beasts, a lion, got a bone stuck in his throat. He declared, “Anyone who extracts the bone, I the King, will make fabulously wealthy.” A bird with a skinny long neck said he will take care of it. The bird entered the mouth of the lion and successfully extracted the bone from the lion’s throat.
The bird then asked the lion for the reward that he was promised. The lion responded, “Is it not enough that I spared your life by not eating you up when you were still in my mouth – and now you are asking for a reward?”
So too, Avimelech was telling Yitzchok, “It was a Chesed that when you were living in Gerar we sent you out in peace, because our nature is to harm anyone who comes into our territory.”
Has anything changed in dealing with the heads of Gerar – Hamas/Gaza?
For 4000 years, one thing has not changed, Klal Yisroel, the Jewish people who emerge from Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov, have been entrusted with the mantra which G-d recognized in Avraham. “For I loved him (Avraham) because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice.”
Before Yitzchok headed to Gerar, G-d spoke to him and promised the Land of Israel to him and his offspring. “It is because Avraham obeyed My voice, and observed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees and My Torahs.”
Rashi quotes the Talmud which wonders, why is the word Torah written in plural, Torahs? The Talmud answers, this is a written proof that not only did G-d present us with the written scroll of the Torah, He also gave us the Oral Torah which was taught to us by our leader Moshe.
In response to this most vicious assault against us, we are witnessing today that we are putting aside our differences and joining together in prayer, charity and personally strengthening our connection with the Almighty.
This is Klal Yisroel at its best! We are praying and supporting our brethren who we don’t know. We sigh and feel the pain for the wounded, the lost lives, and the grieving. Many have embraced a deeper connection to Mitzvos, such as Shabbos, Tzitzis, Tefillin, Kashruth and women separating Challa as a merit for the safe return of the hostages and for the success of our courageous defenders, the IDF.
One has to be deaf and blind not to see the stark difference in the way Klal Yisroel conducts themselves at a rally and those that hate us.
Towards the end of our morning service we clearly express this when we declare, “Blessed is He our G-d, Who created us in His glory, separated us from those who stray, gave us the Torah of truth and implanted internal life within us!”