After two months, we have finally finished cleaning out my parent’s flat. The furniture has gone to different homes who needed it, the clothes have been given to charity and a lot has gone to the rubbish dump.
However, there is one category of things that we have kept.
They don’t have a specific name; they are not a specific thing. They are a mix of records, documents, albums, games, books and a myriad of other things.
They are memories.
Pictures of our family photo from the 1970’s. A record whose cover is so worn from the amount of times I took it out and played it on our record player. A board game, that my brother and I played over and over again during our childhood.
Yet there was one discovery that meant more than all the others.
While sorting through the rooms, I discovered a box, I opened it and couldn’t believe my eyes. There were our primary school projects on Kings and Queens, the Planets, London Transport and Queen Elizabeth the first. I hadn’t seen these for almost 40 years. I could still remember the pictures I had drawn and the information I had written – but that wasn’t my biggest joy. That was the realisation that my mother had kept them for all this time – that she took pride in our work, that she wanted to have them. My brother and I would never have known if she had chucked them all away, we didn’t know she had them – until this week.
As I flicked through the pages of my projects that my mother had kept for all these years, I felt a sense of gratitude and a realisation of what the love of a parent for a child means. And also how that love moulds and shapes the child.
It also shed light for me on a puzzling opening verse in this week’s Parsha:
‘And these are the generations of Yitzchak the son of Avraham; Avraham begot Yitzchak.’
The question is obvious, why repeat the last three words? We know that Avraham was Yitzchak’s father, the first part of the verse tells us – so why repeat?
Rashi famously answers: Since the Torah wrote: “Yitzchak the son of Avraham,” it had to say: “Avraham begot Yitzchak,” because the scorners of the generation were saying that Sarah had conceived from Avimelech, for she had lived with Avraham for many years and had not conceived from him. What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He shaped the features of Yitzchak’s face to resemble Avraham’s, and everyone attested that Avraham had begotten Yitzchak.
However, I want to take the idea in a different direction.
This is the first time we read this in the Torah. First time we read about a ‘Tolda’ in details. We have had the Toldot of Adam and Noach, but we never focussed on the lives of their children. Yes, we know some details, ages of death and the occasional story – but nowhere near the details and the importance we are going to learn about Yitzchak and his family.
It is as if at this crucial junction of the Torah – the segue from Avraham to Yitzchak, the Torah teaches us a crucial message about parents and children.
Yes, the focus of the story now shifts to Yitzchak and his family, Avraham and Sarah are dead, life moves on ‘And these are the generations of Yitzchak son of Avraham’ – we are moving on, moving forward. There are now new generations, new stories, new journeys.
However, don’t ever forget ‘Avraham begot Yitzchak’, where do you think Yitzchak gets his values, his vision, his drive from? Avraham and Sarah – his parents. Yes, time moves on, but never forget where you came from, how you became you.
That verse that I have read and learnt for 40+ years suddenly had brand new meaning – my parents are no longer here, I must forge ahead with my life, my children, my family – but I will never forget how much of me is because of them, their love for me, their care for me, their pride in me. Finding those memories, realising the dedication, devotion and love they gave to my brother and I, the nurturing and loving home that they built for both of us.
Yes, these are the generations of Andrew, son of Sonia and Richard, but never ever forget that Sonia and Richard created Andrew.
I am who I am, because of them.
P.S. The Shabbaton Quiz has been rescheduled to Motzei Shabbat 28th November. Looking forward to seeing you there. Sign up here!