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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Bereshit - Toldot 102

Posted November, 2003
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We can find an important practical lesson in this week's Parashah which produces a wide array of "what if" questions.

Bereshit 25:21 And Yitzchak entreated God concerning his wife, for she was barren, and God was entreated by him, and Rivka his wife conceived. (22) And the children moved lustily against each other within her and she said when this occurred: Why am I thus? And she went to inquire from God. (23) And God let her be told: Two nations are in thy womb, and two manners of government will separate themselves from thy inwards, and one form of government will be mightier than the other, and the greater will serve the lesser. (24) And when her days to be delivered were completed, lo! there were twins in her womb. (25) And the first came out red-cheeked, all over like a hairy mantle, and they called his name Esav. (26) And after that his brother came out, his hand grasping the heel of Esav, and he called his name Yaakov; and Yitzchak was sixty years old when she bare them. (27) When the boys grew up, it came to pass that Esav was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, and Yaakov a single-minded man, dwelling in tents.

(28) And Yitchak loved Esav for he was also a hunter with his mouth, but Rivka loved Yaakov.

(29) And Yaakov let a dish simmer, then Esav came in from the field and he was faint. (30) And Esav said to Yaakov: Let me gulp, I pray thee, of this red red pottage, for I am faint; therefore he called his name Edom. (31) And Yaakov said: Sell me, as this day, thy birthright. (32) And Esav said: See, I am going to die, what use then is this birthright to me? (33) And Yaakov said: Swear to me as this day; and he swore to him, and he sold his birthright to Yaakov.

27:1 And it came to pass that when Yitchak had become old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esav his elder son, and said unto him: My son; and he said unto him: Here I am. (2) And he said: See now, I am, after all, already old, I know not the day of my death. (3) Now therefore, take, I pray thee, thy accoutrements thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. (4) And prepare for me a tasty dish, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless thee before I die. (5) And Rivka heard when Yitchak spake to Esav his son. And Esav went to the field to hunt game to bring it home. (6) But Rivka had spoken to Yaakov her son, saying: See, I heard thy father speak unto Esav thy brother, saying: Bring home some game for me, and make a tasty dish for me, that I may eat and bless thee in the presence of God before my death. (8) And now, my son obey my voice, concerning that which I command thee. (9) Go, I pray thee, unto the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats, and I will make them a tasty dish for thy father, such as he loveth: (10) And thou shalt bring it to thy father that he may eat, so that he may bless thee before his death. (11) And Yaakov said to Rivka his mother: See, Esav, my brother, is a hairy man, and I am smooth man. (12) Peradventure my father will touch me, and I will be in his eyes as a deceiver and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. (13) And his mother said unto him: Upon me be thy curse, my son, only obey thou my voice, and go fetch me them. (14) And he went and took them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made a tasty dish such as his father loved. (15) And Rivka took the costly garments of Esav her elder son which were with her in the house and put them upon Yaakov her younger son. (16) And the skins of the kids she put upon his hands and upon the smooth of his neck. (17) And she gave the tasty dish and the bread which she had prepared into the hand of her son Yaakov. (18) And he came unto his father and said: My father; and he said: He am I, who art thou, my son? (19) And Yaakov said unto his father: I, Esav, thy firstborn, I have done even as thou badest me; arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my game, that thy soul may bless me. (20) And Yitchak said unto his son: How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said: Because God thy God directed it before me. (21) And Yitchak said unto Yaakov: Prithee come near, that I may feel thee, my son: whether thou be my very son Esav or not. (22) And Yaakov went near unto Yitchak his father, and he felt him and said: The voice is the voice of Yakov, and the hands, the hands of Esav. (23) And he recognized him not because his hands were hairy like the hands of his brother Esav, so he blessed them. (24) And he said: Art thou indeed my son Esav? And he said: I am. (25) And he said: Bring it near to me, and I will eat from my son's game so that my soul may bless thee -- And he brought it near to him, and he ate, and he brought him wine and he drank. (26) And his father Yitchak said unto him: Come near me and kiss me, O my son! (27) And he came near and kissed him, and he smelt the smell of his clothes and blessed him and said: See, the fragrance of my son is as the fragrance of a field which God hath blessed. (28) And may God give thee of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth, and abundance of corn and wine; (29) People will serve thee and nations bow down to thee -- Be a man to thy brethren so that thy mother's sons bow down to thee Then whoso curseth thee will be cursed and whoso blesseth thee will be blessed.

In 25:28, we see clearly that the parents, Yitchak and Rivka, each had a favorite. Furthermore, we see no resolution to this difference between them. Rather, as we see in Chapter 27, it goes to the point that Rivka and Yaakov use trickery in order to ensure that Rivka's favorite receive the blessing due the first born, which Yitchak intended to give to Esav.

Of course, there are a multitude of explanations and commentaries on this whole story. After all, Esav gave up the birthright, Esav married women who worshipped idols, and much more.

How interesting it is, however, that the son of Avraham Avinu, whom God taught the importance of Shalom Bayit (Peace in the Home) in person, did not seem to practice the concept himself. Rather, Yitzchak and Rivka clearly worked separately as far as their two sons were concerned. Rivka was told that there were two nations and two governments within her. Certainly, although the Torah doesn't say this, she must have told Yitzchak. They must have had some awareness of the potential greatness, then, of both their sons.

This leads to the practical lesson via a "what if." What if Yitchak and Rivka had worked together as parents to bring out the best in both of their children without a show of favoritism? What if they, as parents, would have nurtured the potential greatness of both their children? We know that Esav's lineage would eventually form the Roman Empire; Yaakov, the Hebraic/Jewish lineage.

The favoritism and separation created by Yitzchak and Rivka, the anger, hatred, jealousy, and destruction we see later in the Torah, result from this favoritism. For those of us who are parents, we know the damage that can be done from this type of behavior. We see it here, expressed in the Torah. And we see how great the damage can be. How interesting that a few centuries later, it would be Esav's descendants that destroy the Second Temple, launch the Diaspora that has lasted the last 2,000 years, and be the impetus of a civilization that would persecute and murder Jews by the millions.

Could all of this have been avoided if Yaakov and Rivka had behaved differently with respect to raising their children? Perhaps, most interesting of all, my wife and I were discussing this very issue last night - before I sat down to read the Parashah and select something for this week's commentary.


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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