“Apparently I’m becoming my mother.” I said these words out loud a few weeks ago. The more I get into this mom thing, the more I hear myself echoing the words – and taking the actions – of my parents. From giving Shiri baths with colored water, to the silly songs we sing in the morning and while getting ready for bedtime, it’s like my childhood all over again.
However, this goes beyond just parenting; the journey I’m taking in life so clearly imitates theirs as well. Every day I struggle with the work/home life balance that my parents worked so hard to find. Though it’s years away, we’re already starting to weigh the pros and cons of a day school education versus public school, and we’ve started saving for Shiri’s college education. Even Sunday picnic dinners are becoming a tradition in my house again. It seems the older I get, the more like my parents I become. Of course this feeling is common – it comes from the fact that we have a shared story, a shared legacy. This is the script by which I’ve learned how to live life.
In a certain sense, the Torah has contributed to this script as well. This week we read from parshat Toldot, which literally means “generations.” We read the story of Isaac and Rebekah, their struggle with infertility, and the subsequent birth of their twins. The text continues with the sibling rivalry which began in utero and continues throughout the boys’ lives. Ultimately, Jacob and Esau are no longer able to even live in the same house as the trickery, fighting, and intolerance for one another escalates. Jacob is sent away for his own safety by his mother, and this section of the narrative comes to an end.
But before all of the infighting begins, we are shown Isaac’s narrative. He is described as “son of Abraham,” and chapter 26 tells us he relives many of the events of his father’s life. Like Abraham, Isaac travels south in a time of famine and tries passing off his wife Rebekah as his sister out of concern for their safety. Isaac follows his father’s journey to the point that he is re-digging wells that his father had dug and calls them by the same name.
The story of Isaac, reliving and rediscovering the path of his parent, is similar to so many of our stories. As we mature, we not only find ourselves resembling our parents in appearance, but often in temperament too. The text of parshat Toldot, the text of the story of generations, is the understanding of our history, including who we are, where we are, and how we got to be here.
We read this week’s Torah portion with the knowledge that while it might be disconcerting or downright scary to wake up one day and realize that you’ve turned into your parent, the qualities you choose to emulate are still within your control. The example that has been set for us cannot be changed, but how we live our lives and raise our children is part of a path forged by our own footsteps in the world.