Parashat Toldot!

Dear Friends;


I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;


” Parasha in a Nutshell “


Isaac marries Rebecca. After twenty childless years their prayers are answered and Rebecca conceives. She experiences a difficult pregnancy; G-d tells her that “there are two nations in your womb,” and that the younger will prevail over the elder. Eisav emerges first; Jacob is born clutching Eisav’s heel. Eisav grows up to be “a hunter, a man of the field”; Jacob is “a wholesome man,” a dweller in the tents. Isaac favors Eisav; Rebecca loves Jacob.


Returning exhausted and hungry from the hunt one day, Eisav sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew.


Eisav marries two Hittite women. Isaac grows old and blind, and expresses his desire to bless Eisav before he dies. While Eisav goes off to hunt for his father’s favorite food, Rebecca dresses Jacob in Eisav’s clothes, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father. Jacob receives his fathers’ blessings for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land” and mastery over his brother. When Eisav returns and the deception is revealed, all Isaac can bless his weeping son with is to predict that he will live by his sword, and that only when Jacob falters, his supremacy over the him will vanish.


Jacob leaves home to flee Eisav’s wrath and to find a wife in the family of his mother’s brother, Laban. Eisav marries a third wife — Machlat, the daughter of Ishmael.


“ Dvar Torah “


In this week’s Parsha, we read the story of Isaac wanting to bless Esau, as he had become old and his eyes could not see clearly anymore. So he tells Esau: “hunt me a game, make me a meal such as I love and bring it to me and I will eat, so that my soul can bless you before I die.” Rivka was listening to their conversation and immediately tells Jacob to bring her two young goats and she will prepare a meal for Isaac the way he likes it. And he should take it to him and take the blessing instead. Hesitant at the beginning, but with his Mom’s persuasion, he disguised himself as Esau and took the meal to him. Suspicious at the beginning, but eventually Isaac ate the meal and blessed Jacob believing that it was Esau.


Was Jacob right to take Esau’s blessing in disguise? Was he right to deceive his father in order to take the blessing that did not belong to him? Was Rivka right in conceiving the plan in the first place and forcing Jacob to carry it out? These are the fundamental questions that me and I’m sure many of you want to know the answers.


Well, one explanation that the majority of commentators go with, is as follows. Rivka was right to propose what she did and Jacob was right to carry it out. Rivka knew that it would be Jacob, not Esau, who would continue the covenant of G-d and carry the mission of Abraham into the future. She knew that because she heard it from G-d himself. Before the birth of the twins, G-d tells Rivka: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one will be stronger than the other, and the elder will serve the younger.” Esau was the elder, Jacob the younger. Therefore it was Jacob who would emerge with greater strength. It was Jacob who was chosen by G-d.


Also, she had watched the twins grow up. She knew that Esau was a hunter, a man of violence. She had seen that he was impetuous, temperamental, a man of impulse and not calm reflection. She had seen him sell his birthright for a bowl of soup. No one who despises his birthright can be the trusted guardian of a covenant intended for eternity.


The blessing had to go to Jacob. If Isaac did not understand the true nature of his sons, if he was “blind” not only physically but also spiritually, might it not be necessary to deceive him? He was by now old, and if Rivka had failed in the early years to get him to see the true nature of their children, then it was too late to make him understand now. So, Rivka was right to deceive Isaac and Jacob was right to follow her instructions.


But there is the other side of the coin. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gives a different interpretation. He says that Isaac fully understood the nature of his two sons. He loved Esau but this did not blind him to the fact that Jacob would be the heir of the covenant. Therefore Isaac prepared two sets of blessings, one for Esau, the other for Jacob. He blessed Esau with the gifts he felt he would appreciate: wealth and power: “May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness – an abundance of grain and new wine” – that is, wealth. “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you” – that is, power. These are NOT the covenantal blessings.


The covenantal blessings that God had given Abraham and Isaac were completely different. They were about having children and the land of Israel. G-d blessed Abraham by saying, “May your children be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea…. And the land you’ve stepped on, I’ve given it to you and your children”. It is the same blessing that Isaac later on gave to Jacob before he left home: “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May He give you to take possession of the land that God gave to Abraham”. This was the blessing Isaac had intended for Jacob all along.There was no need for deception and disguise. The blessing Isaac was about to give Esau was not the blessing of Abraham. He intended to give Esau a blessing appropriate to him.


Accordingly, Rivka and Jacob did make a mistake, but it was a forgivable and understandable one. Jacob came to realize his mistake later on in his life. He was deceived himself by his father in law, Laban, measure for measure. After 22 years of separation, Jacob finally meets with Esau. He gives Esau massive amount of gifts including sheep, cattle and other livestock. He then bows down seven times to Esau. But this was exactly the blessing that Isaac intended for Esau in the first place: “May you be blessed with wealth and May the sons of your mother bow down to you…..”  Jacob finally realized that the blessing doesn’t belong to him and gave it back to it’s right owner!


Well, you can see two different interpretations of the same story in the Torah. There is no right or wrong answer to our story. Rivka had a justified reason to think that the blessing belonged to Jacob. And Isaac had a good enough reason to give a blessing to Esau too, because he had great respect for his father. But one thing we can derive from the story that deception is not a solution to make things right. Jacob had to separate from his parents for 22 years because he deceived his father, and he created hatred between brothers. Honesty is the best way to deal with problems. If Rivka would have just talked to Isaac and told him that Jacob deserves the blessing, maybe he would have given it him anyway?!


So my friends, remember that honesty brings love and closeness in a family, while deception creates hatred and separation!


Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov & Regards;