Weekly Reading Insights:






Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Toldot, 2 Kislev 5783/Nov.26

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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Close to the beginning of this week's portion, Toldot, is the description of the birth of twins, Eisav and Yaakov, to Yitzchak and Rivka. The Torah states that Rivka loved Yaakov [more], and Yitzchak loved Eisav [more]. About Yitzchak and Eisav, the Torah gives a reason - because "…tzayid was in his [Yitzchak's] mouth" (Bereishit/Genesis 25:28). One translation of tzayid is "hunted meat" and is a reference to the main difference between Eisav and Yaakov. Eisav was a "man of the fields", an outdoorsman, a hunter, whereas Yaakov was a "man of the tents", which is understood to mean that he occupied himself with spiritual pursuits, particularly studying Torah. The Torah does not paint a positive picture of Eisav. How could Yitzchak have chosen to give Eisav the blessings of the firstborn rather than Yaakov?

While Rashi [1] cites the Midrash [2] inferring that Yitzchak was being misled by Eisav, the later commentaries do not accept that so easily. The Alshech [3] of Tsfat writes that the term "meat in his mouth" refers to a love that was conditional - based on something physical, while the love of Rivka for Yaakov was without any conditions. Of course, writes the Alshech, Yitzchak had this unconditional love for Yaakov too, like any father for a son. That the Torah specifies Yitzchak's love of Eisav was connected to "meat in his mouth" hints to us that Yitzchak in fact did know Eisav's true essence, and still was wanted to bless him. But if Yitzchak knew who Eisav really was, how could he possibly still be willing to bless him?

The Mei Hashiloach [4] approaches this problem differently. He writes that Yitzchak really did love Eisav more, as the verse infers, but not because of the good food Eisav gave him. Rather it was that Yitzchak saw more potential in Eisav. Specifically, Yitzchak perceived Eisav's wildness as an indication of his potential for greatness. 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. Kabbalistic sources explain how Yitzchak perceived that Eisav could bring the redemption more quickly than Yaakov. However, in the end, Yitzchak realized he was mistaken.

The Divrei Meir [5] says that Yitzchak was smarter than everyone, and the blessings he gave Yaakov were all part of his plan. The Talmud says that in the future, at the time of the redemption when all of the faults of the Jewish people will be on the table, Yitzchak will say to G d, "Half on You and half on me". Yitzchak will defend the Jewish people before G-d. Yitzchak loved Eisav, with all of 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. However, 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 inner dimension of the meaning of the phrase, "…tzayid in his mouth". Tzayid can also be translated as "sustenance". Yitzchak loved Eisav so there would be "sustenance", meaning a compelling argument "in his mouth", to argue for the sake of Jewish people on our Day of Judgment at the time of Mashiach. Just as Yitzchak loved without condition, to bring the redemption, so may we all take the commandment of loving our fellow Jew by judging one another favorably, and may G d always judge us positively, and bring the redemption quickly in our days.

A Jew from Jerusalem, whose son had left the life of Torah learning and observance of mitzvot (commandments), once came to ask advice from Rabbi Dov-Berish Weidenfeld[6], the Gaon (Torah genius) of Tshebin, The Gaon told him to send his son to him and he would speak with him.

When the young man came to him, Rabbi Weidenfeld could see that he had completely left the Torah world and had no intention of returning to the ways of his ancestors.

The Gaon said, "Your family are followers of Spinka-Zidichov, who have the custom not to say Tachanun (prayers of supplication) on Fridays. I ask you accept this custom for the rest of your life."

The young man agreed.

Time passed and the young man concluded that in order to keep this commitment, he would have to say the morning prayers on Fridays, so that he could omit the tachanun prayer! And in time, he returned to the observance of the Torah and G-d's commandments.

["Sichat HaShavua" #1818 Toldot 5782]

Shabbat Shalom and a good new month, Shaul

[The Jewish month of Kislev begins on Wednesday night, November 23rd]

[1] Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki. 1040-1105. Acclaimed French author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and Tanach.
[2] Part of Jewish oral tradition. The classical collection of the Sage's homiletic teachings on the Torah, on the non-literal level of derush .
[3] Moshe Alshech?. (1508-1593). Known as the Alshech Hakadosh (the holy Alshech), was a prominent rabbi and biblical commentator at the end of the sixteenth century .
[4] Written by Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner. 1801-1854. A Chasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty.
[5] Written by Rabbi Meir of Premishlan. 1783-1850. The most famous rabbi of the dynasty. Widely known as a miracle worker.
[6] Rabbi Dov Berish Weidenfeld. 1881-1965. Chief Rabbi of Tshebin, Poland. After World War II spent his final years in Jerusalem. His principal work of Jewish law is titled Dovev Meisharim.

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


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Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more, click to Toldot

one sample:

Mystical Classics

The Unique Wealth of Isaac

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

The scoffers of that generation claimed that it was impossible for Isaac to have fathered a son such as Esau, who pursued married women to commit adultery with them under the noses of their husbands.

But Isaac's extraordinary wealth and material success, the fact that he was sanctified on Mount Moriah, and his life-long residence on the holy soil of the Land of Israel, all served to show that he was indeed a true son of Abraham.

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