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    Isaac the unknown – Tol’dot

    Isaac, from a 1906 Bible card

    Isaac, from a 1906 Bible card

    We talk a lot about Isaac as one of the patriarchs but we actually know very little about him.

    The great events of his birth, his experience at the Akedah, the search for his bride – all are recorded, but in a sense he is only the excuse for the stories.

    His own personality does not shine through the saga. It is not really he who moves through and shapes the events.

    Isaac is a much less dynamic and colourful figure than either Abraham or Jacob. His father and son are great, heroic figures – but Isaac is almost a nobody.

    That is, unless we realise that it is his very quietness and near invisibility that make him a hero in his own right.

    The alternation of the generations often works like this, a dramatic personality, a quiet personality, a dramatic personality.

    The one in the middle is, however, not merely the bridge between the others, but an exemplar of the fact that most human beings are not destined for leadership or the headlines but for the back stalls, if we may mix our metaphors.

    The sound loyalty and solid faith of the back stalls keep history going.

    No-one should ever say, “I’m a nobody”. Everyone is a somebody.

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