Weekly Reading Insights:
To be read on Shabbat Toldot, 2 Kislev 5780/Nov.30
Torah: 25:19-28:9; Haftorah: Malachi 1:1-2:7 (because
the second verse mentions Yaakov & Esav)
Toldot is the 6th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and it contains 5426
letters, in 1432 words, in 106 verses
Yitzchak married Rivkah when he was forty. When he was sixty,
Rivkah gave birth to twins, Esav and Yacov. At age fifteen, Esav returned
one day from hunting in the fields, tired and hungry, and asked Yacov for
some food. Yacov told him to sell him his birthright, which he did. There
was a famine in the land, but G-d told Yitzchak to remain in the land. Yitzchak
went to Gerar, near the border, where he said to the people there that Rivkah
was his sister, as he was afraid that he would be killed because of her. When
king Avimelech found out he issued a decree that should anyone touch Yitzchak
or Rivkah they would be killed. Yitzchak farmed and became wealthy. The Philistines
became jealous and filled in his wells. Avimelech told him to leave. Yitzchak
eventually arrived in Be’er Sheva. He made a peace treaty with Avimelech.
When Esav was forty he married Judith and Basemath. Yitzchak became old and
his eyesight was fading. He told Esav to prepare him a meal, and he would
bless him before he died. Rivkah heard this and told Yacov that she would
prepare a meal for his father, and he should take the blessing instead of
Esav. Esav was furious, and planned to kill Yacov after his father’s death.
Rivkah heard of this and sent Yacov away. Yitzchak blessed Yacov and told
him not to marry a Canaanite girl. Yacov left for the house of Lavan, Rivkah’s
brother. Esav understood that his father was displeased with his Canaanite
wives, and married Ishmael’s daughter Machlat.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
In this week's portion (Toldot), the Torah states that Rivkah loved Yaakov,
and Yitzchak loved Eisav because "
tzayid was in his mouth
( Bereishit 25:28 ) . One translation of tzayid is "hunted meat"
and is obviously a reference to the main difference between Eisav and Yaakov.
Eisav was a "man of the fields", a hunter, whereas Yaakov was a "man
of the tents" (Bereishit 25:27), who studied Torah. The Torah does not
paint a positive picture of Eisav, so how could Yitzchak have been so easily
fooled when granting Yaakov the blessing of the firstborn?
While Rashi cites the Midrash inferring that Yitzchak was being misled,
the later commentaries do not accept this so easily. The Alshich HaKadosh (Rabbi
Moshe Alshich, a prominent Torah interpreter and Kabbalist of Tsfat, 1508-1593)
says that the term "meat in his mouth" refers to a love that was conditional
- based on something physical - while the love of Rivkah for Yaakov was without
any conditions. Of course, the Alshich writes, Yitzchak had this unconditional
love for Yaakov too, since he understood his true essence. That the Torah specifies
Yitzchak's love of Eisav with "meat in his mouth" hints to us that
Yitzchak knew Eisav's true essence also.
The Mei HaShiloach approaches the problem on a different level. He writes that
Yitzchak really did love Eisav more, as the verse infers, for the reason that
Yitzchak saw more potential in Eisav. Specifically, Yitzchak perceived Eisav's
wildness as an indication of his potential to do great things. The Mei HaShiloach
(Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn Chassidic dynasty,
1801-1854) writes that some people take risks in life and others play it safe.
Those that take chances may fail but, when they do succeed, they accomplish
much more that those who are cautious. This was the basis of Yitzchak's love
for Eisav over Yaakov. Kabbalah explains how Yitzchak would say that Eisav had
the potential to bring the redemption faster than Yaakov. But, in the end, Yitzchak
realized he was mistaken.
The Divrei Meir says that, in fact, Yitzchak was smarter than everyone, and
the blessings as delivered were all part of his plan. The Talmud says that in
the future, Yitzchak will say to G-d, "Half on You and half on me",
teaching us that Yitzchak will defend the Jewish people before G-d. Yitzchak
loved Eisav - even with all his failings - in order that he should be able to
claim "Even though Eisav was filled with faults, I did not stop truly loving
him as a father must. But you Almighty are not limited like flesh and blood.
Your love is unlimited! How much more so must You love the Jewish people, who
are Your firstborn, even though they have sinned grievously."
This is the meaning of the phrase, "tzayid in his mouth". Tzayid
can also be translated as "sustenance". Yitzchak loved Eisav so there
would be sustenance, or a compelling argument in his mouth, to argue for the
sake of Jewish people on our Day of Judgment. May we all take the commandment
of loving our fellow Jew by judging one another favorably, and may G-d always
judge us positively too.
Rabbi Shimon Sofer, Rabbi of Cracow, spoke to his congregation about the determining
factors for a child's education. He stressed that the main thing is not to look
for the best, G-d-fearing teacher, but to check who will be the child's classmates.
He taught that we learn this from what happened when Rivkah was pregnant. When
she passed by a Beit Midrash (house of prayer and Torah study), Yaakov
would wriggle and try to come out and when she passed the door of a place of
idolatry, Eisav would try to come out. Why would Yaakov want to leave the womb
while he was being taught Torah there by an angel?
From this we learn that even if the teacher is one of G-d's angels, Yaacov preferred
to leave this situation when his companion was evil Eisav.
Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov , Shaul
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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading,
see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
Specifically, for an overview
of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists,
click to Toldot
From the writings & talks of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch
There are two levels in
the service of G-d: one where the light of holiness drives away the darkness
and a higher level where one transforms the darkness itself into light.
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