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Who is Rich? The Secret to Isaac’s Wealth….

In Parashat Toldot, Isaac finds the path to wealth. Buy low – Sell high….or buy low and make the desert bloom with crops. Eitan Cooper explores this week’s Torah portion.

In Masechet Shabbat, the Sages once debated the question: Who is rich? Rabbi Meir responded: He who is satisfied with his lot; Rabbi Tarfon claimed, he who has 100 vineyards and 100 workers to tend to them; Rabbi Akiva answered, he who loves his wife. And Rabbi Yossi the Galilean said, he who has indoor plumbing.

This week’s Torah Portion, Toldot, tells us how Isaac became rich.

While he never enjoyed Avraham’s status and reputation among the local tribes of “a prince sojourning among us,” he didn’t have to – he was not a sojourner, but a native. Unlike Abraham his father and Jacob his son, he lived his entire life in the Land of Israel, in the Northwest Negev – near what is today the Gaza Strip, exactly the area where Hamas recently perpetrated its horrific mass murder and kidnapping.

After the trauma of the Akeda and death of his mother, Isaac left his father’s huge shadow to seek tranquility and simplicity. He chose an area of marginal value at the edge of the desert, where the quantity of annual rainfall is in some years not quite enough to sustain agriculture. He pitched his tent, married, planted wheat, dug wells and stood his ground to protect them. As a result, the parched, marginal land produced, even by contemporary standards, a fantastic yield of “Mea She’arim” – 100 times the amount of seed he planted. It made him wealthy.

We know that Land of Israel is resource poor.

During the 1930s, when the British Mandate administration issued a report calling for the limitation of Jewish immigration, it estimated that Palestine could support only 300,000 more people. Yet a century later, the Land of Israel supports 12 million. In the end, the resource that enabled it is the hard work, ingenuity and dedication of the millions of Jews who immigrated to it.

Most people outside of Israel can only think of our Land as a place of conflict and tragedy, yet anyone who knows it, also knows its secret: most people here, most of the time, Jews and Arabs, live modest lives, built around strong families. And like it did back in those ancient times, this marginal Land has ‘miraculously’ yielded 100 times what was planted, if not more.

Like our Father Isaac, the rich yields of the State of Israel seem miraculous, yet many equally daunting challenges remain. Those challenges are reflected in the struggles of his son Jacob, in the next two Torah portions. He will have to resolve conflicts with his father-in-law, his brother and most all, the conflict with himself, to reach reconciliation – and achieve the name Israel.

May our children have the strength to do the same!


Shavua Tov from Schechter


Eitan Cooper is the former Executive Vice President of The Schechter Institutes. From January 1, 2024, he is a part-time consultant at Schechter. Since coming to Schechter in 2000, he has served in various capacities, including TALI Outreach Coordinator and Vice President for Development. Mr. Cooper holds a BA from the University of Chicago and an MA from the Hebrew University. He is a graduate of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership and a licensed Israeli tour guide.

Eitan and Anita Cooper made Aliya from the United States in 1983, and are proud parents and grandparents to their growing Israeli family.

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