Weekly Reading Insights:
Toldot 5780

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.


An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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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.


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