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    History & generations – Tol’dot

    Henry Ford had no time for history; he called it “just bunk”. A better view came from the school inspector who told my class that the word “history” derives from “his story”.

    But the inspector was wrong. In his view, all history was biography – who people (apparently males, not females) were and what they did. He seemed to ignore political events, economic, scientific or cultural developments, even educational movements, and certainly not moral progress.

    Ibn Ezra and Sforno interpret today’s sidra with a far better approach when they say that Tol’dot (“generations”) used in relation to Isaac indicates “Isaac in the context of his times”. A similar view comes in Parashat No’ach where the Torah gives us a picture of No’ach in the context of his generations (Gen. 6:9).

    IL Peretz the Yiddish writer says that history is not merely about what was but what ought to have been. It is not only a people’s memory and identity but its stimulus to moral purpose and task.

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