One of the hardest things for us to do is plan for the time after a transition, to plan for a time when we might not be able to continue doing whatever we were until now in the same way. It's hard for us to acknowledge that change might come or even to think about the time after. And yet, a key measure of good leadership is the ability to bequeath to the next generation.
This week’s parsha begins with evidence of the successful transition from Avraham to Yitzchak. At the end of last week, we learned how Avraham planned that moment. This week we see it happen. "These are the generations of Yitzchak, the son of Avraham; Avraham fathered Yitzchak." The transition went precisely as planned.
For Yitzchak as well, we see that an early focus of his life was succession planning. Yitzchak understands that he has received a covenantal mission and that central to his task is bequeathing that covenant to his children. However, in Yitzchak's case, the transition is less smooth. Instead of an easy glide path to Yaakov inheriting his father's place and mantel, we find a bumpy story filled with fighting among the brothers. Why did these two stories proceed so differently?
The Torah tells us that Yitzchak, for all of his greatness, was blind to the many faults of Eisav, his eldest child. He perceived Eisav's devotion and the depth of respect he gave to his parents. However, he missed that Eisav lacked in his relationship with G-d and his appreciation of his family's historical place. Eisav was blind to what occurred before him, unable to see the fault in his son, perceiving only greatness.
The story of Eisav presents us with a model for improvement. Rivkah knew which son would inherit Avraham's legacy from the beginning. Yitzchak eventually grew to appreciate Ya'akov's claim to the birthright as well. Times of great difficulty also present a moment of transition. As we move from what happened before, to what will happen after, we refashion ourselves for the new world we find ourselves in. The Jewish people are currently going through just such a moment of change. As we continue to navigate the post-October 7 world, let us remember that, though we cannot see our way through to the end, it is upon us to manage that change as well as possible, so that afterwards we can look back and reflect upon a new equilibrium which we can be proud of our place in, however painful it was to get there. We must try to be mindful of our faults, limitations, and strengths so that the transition works for us as well as possible.