“Parsha and Purpose” – Toldot 5781

“Parsha and Purpose” – Toldot 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Matching Our Actions and Our Values”

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“Matching Our Actions and Our Values”

What kind of legacy will we leave for our loved ones?

Will they be able to say that we lived a life that matches the ideals that we regularly champion?

Or will our children, loved ones and community ultimately see the contradictions that might exist?

These very difficult questions come into sharp focus in our Torah portion, Toldot, when we encounter the complicated family dynamic of Yitzchak, Rivka, Yaakov and Esav.

As with all Biblical characters, we learn from their strengths and weaknesses. In this case, we learn a lesson of how not to behave, and what happens when one does not lead by example.

When Rivka wishes for Yaakov to inherit the birthright, she dresses Yaakov up to feel and look like his brother, Esav.

“וְאֵת עֹורֹות גְּדָיֵי הָעִזִּים הִלְבִּישָׁה עַל יָדָיו וְעַל חֶלְקַת צַוָּארָיו”

“And she covered his hands and the hairless part of his neck with the skins of a goat.”

Rivka orchestrates a plot to dupe her husband, Yitzchak, and demonstrates that deceit is a way of getting what you want.

And yet, although Yaakov receives the additional blessings through this act of trickery and deception, a close reading of the verses reveals that these brachot are never actualized.

Perhaps more tragically, the impact is multi-generational:

When in the story of the selling of Yosef, Yaakov’s children attempt to trick their father by suggesting that Yosef has been killed; they dip their brother’s coat of many colors into the blood of goats.

Just as Rivka used a goat to trick Yitzchak on behalf of her son, Yaakov, her grandchildren conspire to use a goat to trick her son, their father Yaakov, in a cruel act of deceit.

In life, what counts most is the behavior that we model.

In other words, the legacy that we leave is the legacy that we live.

And so we return to the questions we asked at the beginning:

What kind of legacy will we leave for our loved ones?

Will they be able to say that we lived a life that matches the ideals that we regularly champion?

Or will our children, loved ones and community ultimately see the contradictions that might exist?

Do our actions reflect the example of trickery to expedite the moment?

Or do they celebrate a life of values and meaning?

We should ask ourselves, if we were writing our own eulogy, what would we want it to communicate about us and then ask ourselves are we living the lives that celebrate those ideas.

It is not a coincidence that the parsha that forces us to confront these difficult questions is called Toldot, which means “generations.”

Our actions reflect a legacy of meaning and purpose, something we should all be working to achieve – in creating our own toldot – a legacy for generations.

Shabbat Shalom.

 
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