Perashat Toledot Synopsis
Perashat Toledot begins with the birth of Esav and Yaakob. The tension between the brothers begins in-utero. Rivka is told that she is carrying the future leaders of two nations, and that the older brother will serve the younger. That revelation sets the tone for the entire Perasha. Yaakob emerges holding on to the heel of his older brother Esav. Yaakob is described as a “wholesome man, abiding in tents”, and Esav as a hunter. The Torah writes that Yizhak loved his son Esav, while Ribka preferred Yaakob. The first encounter between the brothers takes place with the sale of Esav’s birthright for a bowl of lentil soup that his younger brother is cooking. The Perasha goes on to describe Yizhak’s stay in the land of Gerar during a famine, and subsequently a dispute over the digging of wells. The incident ends with the reaffirmation of a treaty between Abimelekh, the King of Gerar and Yitzhak. Esav’s choice of wife is described as being problematic to his parents. As Yitzhak approaches old age, his sight becomes diminished. Yitzhak asks Esav to hunt for some delicacies so that he may bless him. Ribka overhearing the conversation summons Yaakob, and convinces him to prepare a meal for his Father, disguised as his brother Esav. In order to appear as Esav, Yaakob puts the skins from a goat on his arms to appear hairy like his bother. The plan works, and Yitzhak blesses Yaakob. He promises him rain from the heavens and productivity from the land. He will be superior to other nations, and those that curse him will be cursed, those that bless him will be blessed. Upon finding out of the incident Esav is outraged, and demands a blessing. In this blessing Esav is told that he will live by the sword, and serve his brother. Esav is enraged, and vows to kill his brother. Ribka sends Yaakob to her brother Laban in Haran to protect him from Esav. Ribka insists that Yaakob find a wife in Haran, and not with the daughters of Heth like his brother Esav. Yizhak blesses Yaakob with the blessing of his father Abraham, and sends him away. Esav realizing his parent’s unhappiness with his choice of for a wife marries Mahalath, the daughter of Yishmael.
Thoughts on the Perasha
We read this week in Perashat Toledot one of the most intriguing stories of the Bible; the Story of Yaakob and Esav, their rivalry and their separation.
Isaac, at the age of 123 years, recognized that his mother died at the age of 127 and thought that he was close to dying. He requested from his firstborn Esav to bring him a delicacy from his hunt so that Isaac could bestow upon him the spiritual blessing to be transmitted to the future generations. This is one of the most decisive and perplexing chapters. Decisive because the decision about which son was to receive the Patriarchal Blessing would determine which would be Abraham’s Spiritual inheritors. It is perplexing, because it is hard to comprehend why Isaac, the righteous Patriarch, chose Esav to receive those blessings. Rebecca was then compelled to resort to a deliberate scheme to deceive Isaac and secure the blessings for Yaakob
A very crucial element in the story that is introduced at the beginning of the chapter, and which without it the whole plan would not have worked out, was that Isaac’s eyes “had dimmed from seeing”. The entire scheme of Rebecca was based on Isaac not recognizing Yaakob because he could not see, and therefore not identify Yaakob. Without this factor, the entire plan could not have been conceived and put into practice.
Could it be that Isaac could not see at all, even to recognize his own son? After all, he was only 123 years of age and he lived 180 years; he was only 2/3 of the way through his lifespan. In addition, the Torah states that his “eyes dimmed”, which seems to mean they lost some sharpness of sight; it doesn’t say that Isaac was blind!
An Interpretation is given that Isaac’s feeble eyes were blind to evil, malevolence, wickedness, treachery, deceit and duplicity, etc. For that reason, he wasn’t able to see the wayward ways of his son Esav and his duplicity. He couldn’t identify Yaakob’s apparent deceit and trickery. Isaac had an inner strength in that he only saw the goodness of the people and their positive traits, and could not believe nor fathom that a person would be capable of malevolence or malfeasance.
We, the Jewish People, as children of Isaac, have inherited the same inner strength and, maybe, naiveté in believing the nations and people around us. For centuries and millennia we have fallen prey to so much deceit by our host nations that ultimately it brought our persecution, plunder and demise by those same nations. Similarly, the State of Israel, in its character as a Jewish State, has also inherited those traits of Isaac; believing the deceitful intentions of its neighbors for making peace and the promises of those nations of the world to protect it in case of attacks, and has suffered significantly.
Ultimately, Yaakob’s blessings will come true, notwithstanding the deceitfulness of all the nations of the world in their dealings with Israel and the Jewish people.