Toledot: The Clowns in Every Generation

The rabbis tell us that when Yitzchak was born, “the clowns of the generation” claimed that Avimelech was Yitzchak’s real father. They even had a convincing argument: for so many years, Sarah had not become pregnant from Avraham. And behold, while Avraham is an old man, she suddenly becomes impregnated shortly after being taken by Avimelech. Logical conclusion: there is no miracle here, but rather Sarah has been impregnated by the evil Avimelech. The rabbis tell us that in order to refute this argument, G-d formed Yitzchak’s face identical to that of Avraham’s, to make it clear that: “Avraham begot Yitzchak.”


Three questions on this midrash: 1. why do the rabbis refer to these slanderers and scorners as “clowns of the generation”? It seems that their claim, as evil as it may be, is not based on frivilousness or buffoonery, but rather on rationality and logic. 2. If they are just “clowns”, why do we pay so much attention to them; to such an extent that the sages immortalize them, and G-d Himself intervenes to refute them? 3. From the midrash, it appears that their claim was not some joke. On the contrary, it seemed to be a serious matter of concern for them to prove that Avraham was not Yitzchak’s father. What do they care? Of what interest is it to them?

Our sages speak of “clowns of the generations” in several other places. For example, in the midrash Eicha Raba it says: “The clowns of the generation would utter with their mouths and hint with their eyes saying, ‘the prophesy which he (Ezekhiel) prophesizes is only for the distant future'”. The clowns of the generation in this case were the leaders who feared that the prophet’s warning of the impending destruction would enter the hearts of the masses. Instead of debating the issue at hand, they latched onto a “weak spot” in his prophesy, and used it in order to destroy the credibility of the prophet: Behold, so much time has passed since you’ve been warning us, and nothing has happened — there is still more time to party! And so again, if their claim is rational and viable, why are they termed “clowns”?


To understand this, we must first realize that a clown is not some prankster with a funny hat and floppy shoes. The “clowns of the generation” which our sages describe are people who have a purpose. In order to nullify the truth which they cannot accept, they grasp onto certain points and make a joke out of them. But as time passes, all the ideology and seriousness that once cloaked them becomes undone, since their goal all along was to undermine the truth in order to continue in their ways of sin and falsehood.


Avraham is the symbol of the “Ivry” (Hebrew). “Ivry” comes from the root “the other side”, meaning that the entire world stood on one side (miever), and he stood on the other. When the sages tell us that he destroyed the idols, it is not just a story: It means that while spreading the idea on the One and True G-d, Avraham waged war against the false beliefs and leaders that existed in his time, shattering them.

Yitzchak’s birth expressed the continuation of this legacy, and the miraculous way in which his birth came about was a proof of G-d’s strength and the righteousness of Avraham’s cause. For many years the people of Avraham’s generation would mock him by saying: You have no one to carry on your legacy! Your teachings will be forgotten! You have no future; you are “washed up and sterile”. Then suddenly, G-d’s ancient promise is actualized and Sarah bears him a son to continue. At this point, his enemies are in danger: Avraham is revived, and his teachings will continue as his G-d promised. In order for their ideology to survive, the opponents of Avraham must launch an offensive. They find something; something logical that can be “clowned” with.

There is no doubt that the clowns of Avraham’s generation were men of stature. Their involvement in the “Who is Yitzchak’s real father” scandal was of a serious nature. However, all this was only a cover for their real motive: the war against Avraham’s ideas; the idea of the true G-d.


This tactic is alive and well today in Israel. The hellenists most powerful weapon against Judaism and Eretz Yisrael is — clowning and mockery. In the media sit people who have perfected it to an art. In the guise of “journalism”, they mock and scorn, cloaking their vicious slander in the garb of “rationalism”, “pragmatism”, “enlightenment”, etc. These are the “clowns of the generation”, whose goal is to destroy all values by setting down the axiom that there really are no “values”, other than the one value whose very essence is anti-value. And what is that? Democracy. In essence, democracy says that anything goes, and that there are no absolute values or objective truths. Anything running counter to this “value” is made into a laughing stock. Mitzvot? G-d? That’s for the primitive (as a first stage), and for the racist (as a second stage).

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