Beware the Peace Offering

First posted on The Times of Israel at:

Baal Haturim Genesis: Toldot

Beware the Peace Offering

Peace, in international affairs, is a period of cheating between two periods of fighting. -Ambrose Bierce

Because of a famine in the mountains of Canaan, our patriarch Isaac heads to the area of Gerar by the Mediterranean coast. There he gets entangled in a variety of problems with the Philistines in general and their King Avimelech in particular. Isaac has the concern, which echoes the experiences of his father Abraham, that the locals may kill him in order to claim his beautiful wife, Rebecca.

Isaac and Rebecca, following the previous generation’s example, pretend to be brother and sister. However, Avimelech discovers the truth and chastises Isaac for the deception. Thereafter, we see that Isaac is blessed with tremendous economic success despite Philistines sabotaging his wells and Avimelech eventually banishing him from Gerar.

Isaac settles by Beer Sheva in the Negev and continues to flourish. King Avimelech, accompanied by his General Fichol, visit Isaac seeking peace with him. Both Isaac and the Baal Haturim on Genesis 26:29 are suspicious of the sudden amity on the part of Avimelech.

The Baal Haturim explains that Avimelech truly wanted to kill Isaac and only after repeated failed efforts does Avimelech pause and tries the strategy of seeking peace – it would seem more out of fear of Isaac’s growing power than for any benevolence or caring for Isaac. It was purely short-term self-interest. The Philistines would remain mortal enemies for centuries to come.

May we achieve peace despite the efforts of our enemies.

Shabbat Shalom,



To our soldier Eitan on the completion of his training and his assignment.

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