Wednesday, November 26, 2008



This week's portion is Toldot.

The portion begins with the pregnancy of Rivkah (Rebecca); Rivkah and Yitzchak (Isaac), after years of prayer, are given children. Rivkah learns through a prophetic message that her very active fetuses are twins, and that they are destined to battle each other for supremacy.

Those two children are Yaakov and Esav (Jacob and Esau). Yaakov is born holding on to Esav's heel, the fulcrum of Esav's leverage, and spends much of his life using that grip to his advantage.

As the children age, they pursue different ends. Esav is a hunter and bandit, while Yaakov stays in the tent and studies. Yaakov is not without guile, though; he gains leverage over Esav when Esav comes in starving from the fields, and he convinces Esav to sell the inheritance of the first-born to him. Note that this is not the same as the blessing of the firstborn; those appear to be two different entities.

There is a famine, and the family moves to Grar, a Philistine city. Yitzchak and Rivkah, learning from Avraham and Sarah, pretend that they are brother and sister to prevent the people from killing Yitzchak to take Rivkah. No one actually took Rivkah, though, before their charade
fell apart and they were discovered to be husband and wife.

The Philistines created trouble for Yitzchak and Rivkah, filling in their wells and forcing them to move from place to place, but Gd helped them achieve financial success. Ultimately, Avimelech, the Philistine leader, made a treaty with them.

Esav married at age 40, modeling his actions on his father Yitzchak's marriage at age 40. Esav's wives were idolatrous, though.

As Yitzchak aged, his vision weakened. He neared the age at which Sarah had died (127), and he decided to communicate to Esav the blessing which Gd had given Avraham, and Avraham had given to Yitzchak. Rivkah found out, understood Esav for who he was, and had Yaakov take advantage of Yitzchak's physical blindness in order to get the blessing.

Yitzchak agreed, in retrospect, that it was proper to bless Yaakov. Some suggest that he knew all along what was happening, but this is difficult to see in the Torah's sentences and in the early commentators.

In the aftermath, Rivkah heard that Esav was going to try to kill Yaakov. She told Yaakov to flee, under the pretext of finding a wife for himself with her family in Aram.

Have a great day,

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