Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Parshat Toldot

Yetzer Tov                   Yetzer Hara

פרשת תולדות
Genesis: (25:19-28:9)
Parashat Toldot is the beginning of the conflict between two nations, a conflict that was predestined from the womb and that continues until today. As we read in last weeks Paarsha, Isaac took Rebecca as his wife and loved her. This weeks Parsha begins by telling us that Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebecca and that she was barren. Isaac prays to G-d and Rebecca soon becomes pregnant with twins. However, the children struggled together within her and she said: If it be so, wherefore do I live? And she went to inquire of G-d (25:22).
Rashi comments that one way to interpret this struggle within the womb is that whenever Rebecca would pass by the Torah study houses of Shem and Ever, Jacob would run and struggle to get out, and when she would pass by the houses of idolatry, Esau would run and struggle to get out.
G-d answers Rebecca, saying Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be separated; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger (25:23).
Soon, Rebecca gives birth to the twin boys. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. (25:25)
And After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esaus heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebecca gave birth to them (25:26).
As the boys grow up, they indeed go their separate ways, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents (25:27). The Torah comments that while Isaac loved Esau, Rebecca loved Jacob.
One day, Jacob is cooking red lentil stew and Esau comes in from the field, tired and hungry. Esau begs Jacob to give him some of this red, red stew for I am faint (25:30).
Jacob asks Esau to sell Esaus birthright to him in exchange for the meal, to which Esau replies, Behold, I am at the point to die; and what profit shall the birthright do to me?
Esau then sells his birthright to Jacob and Jacob feeds him bread and stew. ...Thus Esau despised his birthright (25:34).
There is a famine in the land and Isaac settles in Gerar, which belonged to the Philistine king Abimelech. Like Abraham, Isaac pretends that Rebecca is his sister so that the Philistine men do not kill him and take Rebecca. However, Abimelech soon discovers that Rebecca is his wife and orders all his people not to harm the couple, saying, He that touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death (26:11). 
G-d blesses Isaac and he grew more and more until he became very great. And he had possessions of flocks, and possessions of herds, and a great household; and the Philistines envied him (26:13-14).
Abimelech tells Isaac, Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us (26:16) and Isaac moves to the valley of Gerar.
In Gerar, Isaac digs open the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham, but which the Philistines had filled with earth. Isaacs servants find water in two wells and the shepherds of Gerar and Isaacs shepherds quarrel over the water in both. Isaac moves on and digs another well, over which there is no quarrel, and he names it Rehoboth, saying, For now G-d has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land (26:22).
G-d appears to Isaac in Beer Sheba, telling Isaac not to be afraid, that G-d is with him and will bless him for the sake of Abraham, his servant (26:24). Isaac builds an altar to G-d and then pitches his tent and his servants dig a well.
Abimelech, his friend Ahuzzat, and Pichol, the captain of his military, approach Isaac in Beer Sheba to forge a peace treaty, telling him that We saw plainly that the L-rd was with you...and let us make a covenant with you. that you will do us no harm, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto you nothing but good, and have sent you away in peace; you are now the blessed of the L-rd (26:28-29). Isaac makes a feast for the men and the next morning, they swear to one another to maintain peace between them before Abimelech and his men depart.
At the age of 40, Esau marries Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite and they were a bitterness of spirit unto Isaac and to Rebecca (26:35).
And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son, and said unto him: My son; and he said to him: Here I am. (27:1). Isaac commands Esau to hunt and prepare a meal for him so that Isaac can bless him before Isaac dies. Overhearing their conversation, Rebecca tells Jacob to bring her two kid goats so that she can prepare a meal for Isaac so that he will eat and bless Jacob with the blessing of the firstborn instead of Esau. Rebecca covers Jacobs hands and neck with the skins of the kid goats so that Isaac would believe that Jacob was Esau. Indeed, when Jacob then comes before Isaac with the prepared meal, Isaac wonders aloud, The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau(27:22). However, feeling and smelling the hairy skins with which Rebecca had covered Jacob, Isaac believes that Jacob is Esau and blesses him with the blessing of the firstborn.
Isaac blessing Jacob, So God shall give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fat places of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and let your mothers sons bow down to thee. Cursed be every one that curses you, and blessed be every one that blesses you (27:28-29). 
Soon, Esau returns from the hunt, and realizing, what he had done, Isaac trembles and tells Esau, Your brother came with guile, and has taken away your blessing(27:35).
Esau raises his voice and weeps, and asks his father to bless him as well. Isaac blesses Esau, saying, Behold, of the fat places of the earth shall be your dwelling, and of the dew of heaven from above. And by your sword shall you live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass when you shall break loose, that you shall shake his yoke from off your neck (27:39-40).
And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob (27:41).
Rebecca, fearing for her sons life, sends Jacob to her brother Laban in Haran and orders him to remain there until Esaus wrath subsides. Rebecca tells Isaac that she does not want Jacob to take a wife from the girls of Heth and Isaac orders Jacob to go to to his grandfather, Bethuels house, and take a wife from the daughters of Laban. Isaac blesses Jacob again and sends him to to Padan-Araim, to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacobs and Esaus mother (28:5).
Esau, seeing that Isaac had blessed Jacob and ordered him not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan, goes to Yishmael, and marries Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abrahams son, the sister of Nebaioth.

ואלה תולדת יצחק בן אברהם אברהם הוליד את יצחק
These are the descendants of Isaac, son of Abraham. Avraham was the father of Isaac(25:19).
Why does the Torah emphasize that Abraham was the father of Isaac in this verse? We are already told that Isaac was the son of Abraham in the phrase son of Abraham.
Rashi explains that the scoffers of the generations were saying that Sarah conceived Isaac with Abimelech, for she lived with Abraham for many years and did not conceive. Therefore G-d shaped Isaacs face exactly like Abraham so that everyone could testify that it was Abraham, and no else, was the father of Isaac.
Another explanation is that the Torah seeks to emphasize that Isaac wast not influenced by the ways of his brother, Yishmael, but that he followed in his fathers footsteps.
(ויאהב יצחק את עשו כי ציד בפיו ורבקה אהבת את יעקב (כה:כח
One can wonder how come Isaac favored Esau. From here we can see Isaacs greatness. It is easy to love the perfect child, the one without faults. But Isaac understood that Esau needed more attention in order to lead him to the right way, as a famous Chinese proverb states, Give the child love when he least deserves it.
If we read the verse closely, we note that the word verb ויאהב or (he) loved is written in past tense. This is in order to teach us that Isaac favored Esau conditionally, in order to bring him closer to the Torah, but when it came to Rebeccas love for Jacob, the verb is written in the present tense אהבת, for Rebeccas love for Jacob was continuous.

ויקראו שמו עשו
עשו in gematriya (numerical value) is equivalent to that of שלום orpeace because if he did not have that name (to refine him) he would have likely destroyed the world (Baal HaTurim).

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