The sidra begins by telling us that Isaac and Rebecca were childless and that they prayed for a child. “And Isaac prayed to Hashem opposite his wife, for she was barren” (Bereishit 25:21).

Rashi (d. 1105), explains that Isaac and Rebecca stood in opposite corners of the room whilst they prayed. The Siftei Chachamim adds that it is not appropriate to pray directly facing another person. The question remains, though, why are we told that Isaac prayed in his wife’s presence?

Rabbi Zvi Shiloni suggests that an explanation is apparent if we consider what happened in the previous generation. Abraham and Sarah had been unable to have children and Sarah had given her maid, Hagar, to Abraham. Hagar conceived and then began taunting Sarah, who then sharply criticizes Abraham for his lack of effort on her behalf: chamasi alecha … “the wrong that has be done to me should really be on you. I have given my maid to you and now that she has conceived I am despised in her eyes. May Hashem judge between me and you!” (Bereishit 16:5).

Sharp words indeed! Rashi explains that Sarah’s complaint was that Abraham prayed for offspring only for himself. He had said to G-d: “what can you give me seeing that I go childless?” (Bereishit 15:2) Sarah said: “I am also childless. You should have prayed for the both of us, then we both would have been granted a child!”

It is inconceivable that the Patriarch Abraham who exemplified kindness and sensitivity would have been so selfish as to pray only for himself and not pray that his wife should conceive. However, it was not obvious from his actions that he had Sarah in mind at the time. It is this potential misunderstanding that Isaac seeks to avoid. The Torah stresses that they prayed for children in each other’s presence. In this way, there was no question that each also had the other in mind.

It is important for our relationships not just to care for another, but to also to let them know how much we care for them.

Gila Sacks, in her most moving hesped for her father, pointed out that Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, as a father, had given them just that. He never lost an opportunity to let his children and grandchildren know how much he loved them and how proud he was of each of them.

May each of us do our best to live up to this example.