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    The Patriarchs back to front – B’chukkotai

    The Tochechah (the blessings and curses) ends with the Almighty promising that he will remember His covenant with Jacob, with Isaac and with Abraham (Lev. 26:41).

    There must be a reason why the order of the patriarchs is inverted. Normally they come in chronological order, Abraham, then Isaac and then Jacob.

    I recall hearing an interpretation that linked this passage with the statement in Pirkei Avot (1:2), “On three things the world rests – on Torah, Avodah (worship) and G’millut Chassadim (kindly deeds)”.

    Each of the patriarchs symbolises one of these virtues.

    Jacob, a studious man who sat in the tents of learning (Gen. 25:27) represents Torah. Isaac, who allowed himself to be brought up to the altar (Gen. 22), and who symbolises total dedication to God, represents worship. Abraham, famous for his hospitality and thoughtfulness, represents kindly deeds.

    All three patriarchs, and all three virtues, have a crucial role in Jewish history. But when it comes to earning God’s blessing, we need Jacob first. The exemplar of Torah teaches us that we need to hear the Divine word and know God’s will.

    Isaac comes next. We need to devote ourselves totally – not just in perfunctory fashion – to following the path God chooses for us.

    Finally comes Abraham, who symbolises the outcome of our study and dedication – a life marked by love of others and service to their needs.

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