Parshat Toldot: November 6, 2021 – 2 Kislev 5782

Erev Shabbat

Friday, November 5

  • Candle lighting: 5:46 pm

Parshat Toldot

Shabbat, November 6

  • Stone Chumash p. 124
  • 106 Psukim (verses)
  •  Haftorah: Malachi ch. 1 “Massa d’var Hashem.” Stone Chumash p. 1137

Important Shabbat Times

  • Candle lighting: 5:46 pm
  • Vasikin (Sunrise): 7:30:34 am
  • Latest Morning Shma: 10:08 am
  • Earliest Mincha: 1:13 pm
  • Havdalah: 6:43 pm
  • Zoom Havdalah: 7:00 pm

Parshat Toldot: Insights from the Tradition

Toldot recounts the history of Yitzchak Avinu, our father Isaac. Rebbeca is barren and begs Isaac to ask G-d for a child. G-d blesses Rivka with twins. The first is of a ruddy complexion and covered with hair, and he is named Esav. The second grabs the heel of Esav, as if to preempt him, and he is named Yaakov (heel). The boys grow, and Esav becomes a hunter or a “man of the field” and Jacob is the studious one, who spends most of his time indoors.

Isaac must leave the Land of Israel, as his father did, because of a terrible famine. G-d tells Yitzchak that since he became consecrated as a sacrifice during the Akeida, he must stay in Israel, so he moves to Grar (modern day Gaza). The inhabitants are jealous of Yitzchak and involve him in a series of disputes over wells that he dug. In the end, they compromise, and call the well Beer Sheva, or the seventh well.

Isaac, who has become old and blind, decides to pass on his special blessings of  “the peoplehood of Israel” to Esav.  Rivka knows that Esav does not deserve this distinction, and she convinces younger son, Yaakov, to receive the blessings for himself. Yaakov is concerned that his father will discover any ruse and may turn the blessing into a curse. Rivka assures him that no curse will befall him. Yaakov dresses in Esav’s clothing, and succeeds in procuring the blessings. When Esav learns his blessing was stolen he screams, yet also admits to having been “fooled before” when he sold his birthright to Yaakov. Both Yitzchak and Rivka now understand that Yaakov has earned the blessings, and tell him to flee, as his brother Esav wants to kill him.

The Moral of the Story

How could Isaac wish to bestow the heavenly blessings upon Esau? Surely he must have known that Esau was a man of this world and had no real interest in spiritual matters. His brother Yaakov, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite! Shouldn’t Yaakov have been the obvious choice for the blessings of Abraham?

We suggest that Isaac, in his capacity as a prophet, understood very well that in the future, the People of Israel would have their very existence challenged on a daily basis, and they would need an ample dose of “street smarts” in order to survive. Isaac looked at both Jacob and Esau, and Esau became his obvious choice. However, when Jacob demonstrated that he could best Esau when necessary, Isaac suddenly realized that Jacob was blessed with both qualities, and therefore was truly worthy of the blessings he received.

Mitzvah of the Week: Mitzvah #142

It is a special mitzvah to offer a thanksgiving sacrifice in the Temple, after one experiences a miracle. As it states (Lev. 7/15), “and the meat of the sacrifice of thanksgiving etc.” According to tradition, one who is (1) redeemed from prison; (2) traverses the sea; (3) recuperates from a sickness; (4) traverses a desert, is obligated to bring this sacrifice. Later authorities hold that these four occurrences are merely examples, and the law applies equally to any salvation from a true danger.

Today one fulfills this obligation by reciting a special prayer, “Hagomel,” in the presence of a minyan. It would also be laudatory to invite the community to a special meal or kiddush of “thanksgiving” in order to publicize one’s  great good fortune, thereby sanctifying the Name of G-d.  The actual sacrifice only has application in the period of the Temple, but the Gomel prayer, at all times in all periods, applies equally to both men and women.

Shabbat Shalom!