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Home > Torah Portion > A Summary of Toldot

A Summary of Toldot
Gen. 25:18- 28:9
by Yaakov Fogelman

Toldot is the tale of Yitzchak, Rivka, and their twins, Yaakov and Esav; it ends with newly-blessed Yaakov fleeing to Lavan in Aram, to escape his big brother Esav's murderous revenge and learn about life .

Esau became a great hunter and Yaakov a beautiful harmonious person, committed to the tents of family and study. "AND Yitzchak LOVED ESAU AS HIS GAME WAS IN HIS MOUTH (or, per Ramban, AS HE WAS A VENISON ADDICT!) AND RIVKA LOVES Yaakov (25:28)". The Torah hints at a Rabbinic lesson (Avot 5:16)- all love contingent upon getting something from the beloved, physical or psychological, will only endure as long as a need is being satisfied- Yitzchak loved Esav AS... (past tense); but love of the essence of the beloved, for no "reason", endures forever- Rivka loves, present tense- even today, tho her love brings conflict with Yitzchak. Such love is the bonding of eternal souls, joining the Oneness of God Himself- ahava, love, = 13 = echad, one, w/o divisions of place and time.

Yaakov asked Esav to sell his religious office of the firstborn; he agreed, proclaiming no need for it, as he was going to die anyway. He sold it under oath (for a good price- Num. Raba 6:2, Radak). Yaakov ALSO gave him bread and lentils. Esav left, disdaining the birthright (25:33). There is no trickery here. Esav didn't believe in a Divine soul, in life after death. As a religious leader, he would only despise his own role. So "Rabbis", who themselves are not sure of God's existence or concern, can be professors, but not spiritual leaders; they can't fake it. Modern man needs inspiration more than information, street rabbis more than pulpit rabbis (Rav S. Carlebach, ZTz"L). One must be inspired to inspire; only words emitting from the heart enter another's heart.

Yitzchak planted crops and grew very prosperous. The Philistines envied him (cf. Spain, Germany, etc.) and filled Avraham's wells with dirt (idolatry vs. monotheism; Discos vs. Yeshivot). After exile to Wadi Gerar, Yitzchak reopened his father's wells, restoring their original names. Twice his servants dug wells, resulting in quarrels with the local shepherds, who claimed the water; he named them Contention (Esek) and Obstruction (Sitnah). The third time there was no quarrel- he called it Spaciousness (Rechovot- 26:20-2). The 3 wells represent the 3 temples; the first two bring enemies to destroy them, due to internal Jewish quarrels and misconduct; the 3rd Temple will be built WITHOUT QUARREL AND FEUD... AND ALL WILL COME TO WORSHIP THERE (Ramban)- this precondition, agreement of even the Arabs, can occur in 2 ways- either God will suddenly appear and build the Temple (perhaps with Israel; cf. Rashi, Ex. 15:17), OR the Jews of Israel will really shape up, becoming a true kingdom of priests, as well as a holy nation, transforming and elevating every realm of human activity- then the Arabs may accept them as their sheik, their leader, and help them build the indestructible 3rd Temple. Premature attempts to build the Temple are futile- a) we don't really know how and b) if we can't even run the Wall properly, why try for the Temple? c) some believe the 3rd Temple will be built 5-56 miles north of Jerusalem-- Artscrolls Ezek. 40, 45, 48, Rashash B.B. 122a, Malbim Zech. 14:4.

NOTHING FOR YAAKOV? Could Yitzchak so dislike Yaakov, that he didn't save even one blessing for him? JBS says the opposite- Yitzchak wanted Yaakov, "the perfectly wholesome man" to continue dwelling in the tents of study. Esav, "the man of the field", would take over the material blessings, to run the world, supporting Yaakov's kollel. Rivka, who came from Haran, knew what kind of world resulted, when the righteous let the wicked run things. She was determined that Yaakov should STOP being isolated in holiness; he must fully partake of the blessings of this earth, hitherto reserved by Yitzchak for Esav.

Yitzchak had indeed saved the holy blessings of Avraham and the land of Israel for Yaakov, and refused to give them to Esav. After Yaakov got the blessings of this world too (dew of heaven and fat places of earth), Rivka sent him off to master- manipulator Lavan; there Yaakov learnt the ways of the world, in the school of hard knocks. Yaakov's holy development of his blessings of nature brings blessings back to nature; he restores the original harmonious perfect state of the universe (Zohar).

Yitzchak is a strong, kind, and quiet farmer, rather than a roaming shepherd. Tho a Tzadik, son of a Tzadik, Avraham's servant, Eliezer, arranges his marriage to Rivka, a little ex-idolatress from Aram, his sole soulmate. Avraham and Yaakov are self-defining activists; Yitzchak is defined by others- he is Avraham's son, Rivka's husband, and the father of Yaakov and Esav; he's even passive in Avraham's great test- Yitzchak's sacrifice, The Akada. His name never changes, unlike Avram's and Yaakov's. Rivka and Yaakov trick him out of blessing Esav, of whose true nature he seems blind. Avimelech abuses him. Yitzchak appears to be a but a passive link between Avraham and Yaakov.

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP: Yet we pray to the God of Avraham, THE GOD OF YITZCHAK, and the God of Yaakov; he too created a unique indispensable aspect of the man-God relationship. The Zohar describes the essence of Yitzchak's personality as gevurah (might)- self-mastery, inner structure, and discipline Just as Yaakov only appreciates his father much later, so, at the end of days Israel proclaims: "For you (Yitzchak) are our father, for Avraham didn't know us, nor did Yisroel recognize us; You, O' Lord,are our father; Our Everlasting Redeemer is Your name" (Is. 63:16, per R. Yonaton, Shab. 89b)- only Yitzchak will successfully debate God and save Israel at the end of days.


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