Toldot

“Parsha and Purpose” – Toldot 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Taking the Initiative In Our Lives and Transforming Jewish Destiny”

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Parshat Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9) 

“Taking the Initiative In Our Lives and Transforming Jewish Destiny

Rivkah, the middle matriarch, in many ways, the quietest of the lot. Throughout the entire time that Rivkah is on the biblical stage, she barely talks.

Only once does Rivkah communicate with Yitzhak – after they are married. (Genesis 27:46)

Yet in many ways, she is the most impactful of the matriarchs.

It is Rivkah who decides the destiny of Avraham and Sarah and Yitzhak, the legacy of the monotheistic family, that the family’s birthright should be driven by Yaakov, and not Eisav. (Genesis 27:5-29)

Unlike with Sarah and Avraham – where God confirms that Yitzhak is the continuity of their legacy, “כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע”, “it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you” (Genesis 21:12) – there is no such overt communication to Rivkah. There’s a little hint, but no such overt communication.

Rivkah shares with all of us the power of initiative.

When she meets Eliezar at the well and gives him to drink, and then takes the initiative to water his camels and offer him and his camels lodging. (Genesis 24:18-25)

She’s not sent away to marry Yitzhak, but she takes the initiative for such a life journey.

“ויקראו לרבקה”, they called to Rivkah, “ויאמרו אליה, התלכי עם האיש הזה?”.

“Do you want this journey? Do you want to get married to Yitzhak?”

 “ותאמר אלך”

She responds with “אלך”, “eilech” (Genesis 24:58), with the exact code word found with Avraham, when he begins his initiative of “לך לך”, “Lech Lecha”. Only this time, it is not God requesting the taking of the initiative, but Rivkah is doing it on her own.

When Rivkah becomes pregnant and it is uneasy, she takes the initiative to try to find out why.

“ותלך לדרוש את”
She went to inquire of God
(Genesis 25:22)

She goes out seeking God, and therefore God speaks to her and not Yitzhak.

And when the blessings are being discussed between her husband, Yitzhak, and her son, Eisav, Rivkah takes the initiative to trick her husband, and for Jacob to receive the first set of blessings. (Genesis 27:6-17)

And there’s a price she pays for that – she loses her relationship with both of her children, and indeed, those blessings don’t fully come true.

When her warring children might harm each other, she once again takes the initiative to separate them. (Genesis 27:42-45)

Like Esther and Ruth, she is a woman who is a leader, not by her words, but through her initiative. And by doing so, she transforms the reality around her.

Rivkah is a reminder to all of us that we, too, can change the reality around us, whether it’s the way we interact with the pandemic, whether it’s the way we engage with our family, our initiatives can transform the global world and our personal world because of our activities.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “And Isaac loved Esau, because the game was in his mouth; but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Gen. 25:28). Of all the myriads of questions which rise up from this week’s portion of familial intrigue, sibling rivalry, filial deception and maternal manipulation, perhaps the …

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Yonat Lemberger

Yaakov and Esav: Closeness and Alienation Yonat Lemberger is the Principal of  Ulpanat Oriya In our portion of Toldot, a relationship is forged – between Yaakov and Esav, between Israel and Edom; a relationship so complex, yet so fascinating.  Much like a suspense novel with twists and turns, our story is both sensational and sensual.  …

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“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.” Genesis 27:16

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. Genesis 37:31

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.

 
Rabbi Riskin

Shabbat Shalom: Toldot (Genesis 25:19 – 28:9) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin  Efrat, Israel — “Now Isaac loved Esau, because the hunt was in his mouth, while Rebecca loved Jacob” [Gen. 25:28]. The watershed moment in Jacob’s life—the repercussions of which surface in every subsequent generation of Jewish history—is the act deceiving his father, Isaac, in …

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rabbi chaim navon

Bidding farewell to idol-worship; this time, for good Prayer is, above all else, an intimate encounter between a person and God. The prayer’s content includes requests and supplications from God, but the essence of the prayer is embodied, first and foremost, by the act of turning to Hashem. Content comes second. Rabbi Chaim Navon, senior faculty …

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Toldot Thumbnail

“Parsha and Purpose” – Insights from Rabbi Kenneth Brander into Torah and Contemporary Life

Parshat Toldot 5780

Sources cited

  • Genesis 25:27
  • Rav Hirsch on Torah, Genesis 25:27
Yonat Lemberger

Parashat Toldot: An anti-hero or a hero against his will? The Esau of the Bible undergoes a change of image. He is portrayed differently in the biblical text than in rabbinical texts. His character is furthered transformed in Hebrew poetry. Yonat Lemberger is the principal of OTS’ Oriya High School for Girls. Esau is the …

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