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Parasha Toldot 5783

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I can tell you one thing, I absolutely hated the restaurant life… At times it was literally the worst (and I can’t even begin to imagine how terrible a reality the restaurant life is now days…) But I was really, really good at it. I don’t know why, I don’t even like people enough to be good at waiting tables… But I was. I started waiting tables in high school because it was an easy job to score since my mom was one of the managers. Then after high school I moved from waiting tables in a buffet to full service and for the first few years of our marriage while we were still in Mobile me waiting tables was how we made ends meet.
When we were getting ready to move to New York I knew without a doubt that the most likely job I could land that would allow me the schedule needed for school and my internship with our synagogue and all was logically the restaurant life. So, before we moved up I sent a bunch of resumes out and had a bunch of interviews lined up when we got there. The entire five years we lived in New York the restaurant life was how we paid our bills. And again, I was really good at it. This is, without a doubt, a gift God has given me to serve others and to be hospitable, and it did me really well for years.
So in 2009 when we moved to Georgia and I was going to be on staff full-time at our synagogue as the associate rabbi I was super-excited to not have work in restaurants anymore. And I was confident that I would never have to do it again… Then our time in Georgia came to an end and we knew God was calling us to start Mayim Chayim, and this would be a congregation we’d be building from the ground up, so that nice full-time salary I had come to love was going to be no more, but my wife and two kids were going to still want a roof and food from time to time…
So, when we came to Baldwin County I knew I would need to get a job, but it needed to be a job that I could work and still have time for the synagogue. So, what do you think the logical answer was…? Yep, that restaurant life. And for the first five or six years of Mayim Chayim I was working four and sometimes five open to closes a week. Again I was back in the business I really don’t like, but one in which I am very, very good at. This became even more obvious when I was working in Orange Beach and every summer had guests come in and ask for me by name to be their server because they got such great service before.
But, when I needed to work again as we were first starting the synagogue up, it only made sense to go back to the marketplace I was most familiar with, the one I knew I was good at, the one I knew I would be able to support my family from. And it’s always easier to go back to something you’re already familiar with and know will work.


Most of you probably know exactly what I am talking about.
Maybe it was signing contract after contract in the military because you knew it well.
Maybe it was moving back to your home town because it was the most comfortable.
Maybe it was moving back in with your parents for a season because you knew it was a safe move.
Whatever it is, we’ve all likely been in this type of situation, where we feel like maybe we’re going backwards a little but at the same time sometimes going backward is the best move to be able to go forward again.


This week we read Parasha Toldot, Genesis 25:19-28:9, and continues with the story of the lineage of Abraham and the foundations of B’nei Yisrael, and at times it would appear that Isaac has learned from his father’s mistakes and at others it seems as though he is working hard to repeat them. We begin in Genesis 25 with yet another of the matriarchs of Israel suffering from fertility issues, and this is one scene in which it appears Isaac learned from Abraham’s mistake with Hagar. Instead of trying to solve their offspring issues in their own Isaac turns directly to the Lord. He prays for Rebekah’s womb to be opened and Adonai answers his prayer and Rebekah gets pregnant.
Ultimately she gives birth to twins, Jacob and Esau, but even in the womb these two appeared to be destined to be at each other throats. When the two boys were born, Esau came out first and Jacob came with a tight grip on Esau’s heel. We also see that as Jacob and Esau grew up and became their own men they were vastly different in nature, Esau loved the outdoors and Jacob loved was a mild man and mostly stayed indoors. Closing out Genesis 25 we read of the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew, which we later recognize was an event that left significant resentment in Esau’s heart—even though he could have cared less about the birthright.
In chapter 26 we see another famine has come across the land and Isaac and his household begin to journey toward Egypt, just like his father Abraham did. However, he stops in Gerar (Philistine town under the authority of King Avimelech—the same king that Abraham and Sarah have a run in with), presumable for an overnight stay along their journey, and there Adonai speaks to Isaac and tells him not to go down to Egypt, not to leave the Promised Land and He reaffirms the eternal Abrahamic covenant with Isaac. Then, immediately following the reaffirmation of the divine covenant, Isaac repeats a mistake his father made and tells Rebekah to pretend to be his sister so no one kills him for her. And, just like Abraham, Isaac’s duplicitous act here is discovered by Avimelech, the same king who was duped in exactly the same way by Abraham and Sarah, so there’s already raw feelings and deep rooted potential strife at play.
Then we read of Isaac being substantial blessed by HaShem and become great and prosperous in Gerar. Avimelech then runs him out of town because Isaac is becoming too powerful and rich. So Isaac leaves the city proper and goes out to the surrounding valley. While in the valley he runs into some problems with the Philistine shepherds there and they have some conflict over the wells Isaac has re-dug and the water he has found.
Following the similar journey path of his father, Abraham, Isaac leaves the valley of Gerar and heads to Be’er Sheva (believed to be about 19 miles away). Here King Avimelech comes to him and they make a peace treaty that the two would not attack one another no matter what. Then Isaac settles in Be’er Sheva.
And chapter 26 closes out with Esau marrying two Hittite women which created bitterness in the hearts of Isaac and Rebekah.
In chapter 27 we see, yet again, Jacob pulling one over on Esau. Isaac is now toward the end of his life and is more bedridden than active and has lost his sight due to old age. Remember, he was 60 when the boys were born and the close of chapter 26 tells us that the boys were 40, and then 27 appears to be sometime later, so Isaac was over 100 years old at this point. Isaac asks Esau (his favorite) to go hunt some game and make him a special meal with it and when he does Isaac will give Esau his firstborn blessing, Rebekah overhears all of this and schemes a plan for Jacob (her favorite) to trick Isaac and steal the blessing. It works, and Jacob gets the firstborn blessing which then causes Esau to explode with anger and threaten to kill Jacob. And in the beginning of Chapter 28 we see Rebekah scheming again to get Isaac to send Jacob off to Paddan-Aram to find a bride from her family. Jacob runs away, and Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter in order to wreak even more havoc upon his parents as payback.
But I’d like to focus on one specific aspect of Parasha Toldot today, and in this we learn a tremendous lesson about spiritual renewal and revival from Isaac’s life.
In order to experience spiritual renewal we must return to the wells of our fathers to find the waters of life.
Let’s dig into the Word together.
Genesis 26:12–16 TLV
Then Isaac sowed in that land and in that year reaped a hundredfold. Adonai blessed him and the man became great and continued to become greater until he became very great. He acquired livestock of sheep and livestock of cattle, and numerous servants. Then the Philistines envied him. All the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father Abraham the Philistines stopped up and filled with dirt. So Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much more powerful than us.”
So Isaac was blessed by God and made prosperous, the Philistines became jealous and afraid of him. Then we’re told that the wells that Abraham had dug had been filled in and stopped up, presumably in an effort to wipe out even the memory of Abraham in the area as the Philistines were jealous and afraid of Abraham as well. So then Avimelech kicks Isaac out of the city and ran him off.
Genesis 26:17–18 TLV
So Isaac departed from there, camped in the Valley of Gerar and dwelled there. Then Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham—the Philistines had stopped them up after Abraham’s death. He gave them the same names that his father had given them.
Now, pay close attention here, because anytime we see something brought up twice in the Bible, especially so close together, it is extremely important. Notice in very 18 it says Isaac began to dig up the wells his father dug—the ones the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death. In a lot of ways Isaac is retracing his father’s footsteps, he is spiritually learning from what his father experienced. And like Abraham, Isaac is a righteous man, a man seeking after the heart of God. Abraham was called to the Promise Land and given an eternal covenant for his generations after him connected with the Promised Land. Abraham was very careful to make sure Isaac didn’t leave the Canaan, and now even as Isaac was potentially trying to flee to Egypt to get away from the famine like his father did, Adonai confirmed the powerful reality that Isaac—the son of promise—was to stay in the Promised Land.
But, once Abraham, this great man of faith, died the first thing the Philistines attempted to do was wipe his memory off the face of the earth. They immediately stopped up the wells of living water he had dug. Imagine how desperate the Philistines must have been to try to get him out of their memory, so much so they stopped up perfectly good wells which could have provided water for them and been a blessing to them.
But, Isaac made a stupid mistake earlier in chapter 26 by trying to follow his dad’s footsteps a little too far and telling Rebekah to say she was his sister. Now not only do the Philistines have bad feelings toward Abraham, but they have now doubled down on Isaac too. So Avimelech runs Isaac out of town and Isaac is a little distraught and disappointed… Heck, he’s human and very well could be reacted like you or I might, complaining God asking Him why He could have let this happen, let him get kicked out of a comfortable situation… He’s possibly a little lost… Maybe feeling a little broken… Even though he knows that God is with him, even though he’s already encountered the voice of God, he may feel like he is suddenly distant from God. Funny how sin can do that to us, right? Funny how sin can suddenly make us feel like God isn’t with us, even though it was our mistakes that caused the problem to begin with.
So Isaac packs up and moves out of the city limits into the valley of Gerar and whats the first thing he does?
Genesis 26:19–21 TLV
Then Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found a well of living water there. But the shepherds of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s shepherds saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Quarrel, because they quarreled with him. Then he dug another well and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Accusation.
He immediately returns to the wells of his father. He’s looking for water, and we know biblically and spiritually that water is symbol of spiritual renewal. Isaac is, I believe, looking for a bit of spiritual renewal… He encountered God personally, then almost immediately sinned. And this wasn’t just a simple sin, no it was a sin cause by a generational curse in that it was the same thing his father did, but also a sin that caused a generational curse that effected Israel all the way through the Davidic dynasty. And, if we really want to wrestle with the generational implications, the mistakes Isaac makes along the way leave a wake of generational curse that still effects Israel today as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is, at least in name still linked back to the Philistines as the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians chose that name because it is from the Greek word for Philistines, who they knew to be Israel’s historical enemy…
So because he has sinned and feels distant from God he is now looking for spiritual renewal and has returned to the wells of his father to look for waters of life. He is starting to understand the spiritual lesson we are talking about today…
In order to experience spiritual renewal we must return to the wells of our fathers to find the waters of life.
So Isaac’s men dig at one of these well sites, and immediately God provides, as the Hebrew in the text words it, Mayim Chayim—living water—which is exactly what Isaac is looking for. The the Philistine shepherds come around and begin to argue with them and proclaim the water to be theirs, so Isaac names the well Esek (contention or quarrel) because he found waters of life but no peace.
Then he digs another well of his father and what do they find? Mayim Chayim again!!! And what happens next? The Philistine shepherds again fight with him over this well too. So he names this well Sitnah (hostility or accusation) because again he finds waters of life but no peace.
Remember, before Isaac came around the Philistines wanted nothing to do with these wells of Abraham. In fact, they wanted so little to do with them they stopped them up and filled them with dirt so no one could be blessed by them. But now all of the sudden they want it all to themselves.
But Isaac isn’t done looking for his spiritual renewal… And he isn’t letting the Philistine crisis consume him. He lets them have both of those wells and moves on to another. The finding of the Mayim Chayim was completely because of Isaac, and more so completely because the Adonai was with him and Avimelech knew it. Targum Yonatan states that as soon as Isaac moved on to Be’er Sheva the wells that Isaac had dug up and the Philistines took from him stopped up and all of the Philistines fruit trees dried up and that this is why Avimelech later in chapter 26 comes to Isaac to make a peace treaty with him.
So, Isaac is two for two on finding Mayim Chayim in the wells of his father and then losing then because of the Philistines, but he isn’t finished yet, he isn’t ready to throw in the towel. And see, this is an important reality to spiritual renewal. Sometimes we take that first step, that second step pressing into the Ruach and the world comes at us like the Philistines wanting to contend with us, wanting to throw accusations at us, wanting to tear us down. But it’s important to remember the closer we get to God the more the world will want to tear us down, the more the enemy will come after us. So we can’t give in just because the going gets a little tough.
So Isaac doesn’t throw in the towel, he presses on pressing in…
Genesis 26:22 TLV
Then he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he named it Wide Spaces and said, “Because now Adonai has created wide spaces for us and we will be fruitful in the land.”
This time he finds exactly what he’s been looking for, Mayim Chayim and no one is coming at him, no one is trying to tear him down, no one is trying to rob him of God’s glory.
So after he finally finds water and gets a taste of the spiritual renewal he is looking for, he moves on to the next stop on the journeys of our father tour—Be’er Sheva, which is about 19 miles or so away.
Genesis 26:23–25 TLV
He went up from there to Beer-sheba. Adonai appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you, and I will bless you and multiply your seed for the sake of Abraham my servant.” So he built an altar there and called on the Name of Adonai. He pitched his tent there and Isaac’s servants hollowed out a well there.
After finally finding Mayim Chayim that he can draw from he moves on to Be’er Sheva, the well of blessing. And here he again encounters God and the Lord tells him, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you, and I will bless you and multiply your seed...” Now Isaac has finally found spiritual renewal. And more so, he has again encounter God and now knows more than ever that Adonai isn’t just the God of Abraham, but He is also the God of Isaac. And this is something that no one can take away from him—not the Philistines, not the world, no one.
And immediately after encounter God at Be’er Sheva he immediately makes the area his home and again digs a well to be able to drink from the Mayim Chayim.
In fact, in Jeremiah 2 this very reality is one of the many issues Adonai calls out Israel for, among idolatry and so much more:
Jeremiah 2:13 TLV
“My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me —the spring of living water— and they dug their own cisterns— cracked cisterns that hold no water.
Adonai tells Jeremiah to tell Israel that they have forsaken their living water in Him, they have dug up wells that are cracked and have no water. Israel had traded Adonai for gods made by their own hands, traded their spiritual renewal for spiritual death and despair.
We see this concept again in John 4 when Yeshua encounters the Samaritan woman at the well in Shechem.
John 4:10–14 TLV
Yeshua replied to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman tells Him, “You don’t have a bucket, and the well is deep. Then from where do You get this living water? You’re not greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us this well. He drank out of it himself, with his sons and his cattle.” Yeshua replied to her, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life!”
Yeshua tells us if we drink of the Mayim Chayim, His water of life, then we’d never be thirsty again. The Mayim Chayim would spring up from within us to eternal life. Keep in mind, again, the image of Mayim Chayim throughout Scripture is a symbol of spiritual renewal, and what Yeshua is pointing forward to is the Ruach HaKodesh which will spring forth from our inmost being.
In order to experience spiritual renewal we must return to the wells of our fathers to find the waters of life.
This is the same spiritual renewal and well digging that Isaac was chasing. This is the same spiritual renewal Jeremiah says Israel had forsaken. If we want to see spiritual renewal, if we want to experience revival we must return to the Waters of Life that will never run dry, to the Waters of Life that the world can never stop up and block. If we want to spiritual renewal we must return to the spiritual well that our forefathers the Talmidim experienced in Acts 2.


Call the worship team up and unmute
So, do you find yourself looking for that spiritual renewal today? Do you find yourself feeling distant from God, possible because of your own fears, or doubts, or sins? Are you, like Isaac striving and striving to draw closer to the Father in your own walk and hitting road block after road block, contention and accusation after contention and accusation? Are you feeling like the more you try to press in the harder it is to truly find the Mayim Chayim?
Well, I can promise you you’re not alone. Simply open up the pages of the Bible and you’ll find character after character who struggled in their walk, who struggled in their relationship with the Lord, who struggled to find their way to the waters of life from time to time. Guys like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, even Yeshua’s own brothers…


And there’s nothing the Body of Messiah needs more today than a fresh spiritual renewal, a powerful revival. So let’s return back to the wells of our fathers. Let’s go back to the Scriptures and dig into the lives of these men and women of God. I promise you, all of our greatest biblical heroes have been in our shoes before (well, probably sandals). And in the lives of our patriarchs and matriarchs throughout Scripture we are able to see how to overcome the ways of this world to be able to fully embrace the Mayim Chayim, the Waters of Life that will never run dry. We will experience the power of spiritual renewal, the power of revival in Messiah.
And there’s nothing the world around us (despite all their contention and accusation like the Philistines against Isaac) needs more than to see the Body of Messiah experience the raging wild fire of the Ruach HaKodesh. Let’s return to the wells of our fathers today, right here, right now...
Let’s all rise and draw from the wells of worship together in just a moment, and as we do let’s truly press into the Waters of Life today.
I’m going to pray and then we’re going to worship together.
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