This week’s study, Toldot, means “offspring” and “generations”; it also means “generations” in the more general sense, (ie) that which a person generates and produces. Thus, “the toldot of Isaac” are Isaac’s two sons, Jacob and Esau, as well as the deeds and achievements of Isaac…And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son.
Isaac and Rebecca (sister to Laban)
marry. After twenty childless years their prayers are answered. Rebecca conceives but the pregnancy is difficult. G-d tells her “there are two nations in your womb”
and that the younger will prevail over the elder.
The twin boys emerge, Esau first, followed by Jacob who is born clutching Esau’s heel. Isaac favors Esau “a cunning hunter and man of the field” but Rebecca loves Jacob “a wholesome man, a dweller in the tents of learning”. One day, when Esau returns exhausted and hungry from the hunt, he sells his rights as the firstborn (birthright) to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew. Then comes the famine in Canaan and Isaac escaps by traveling to Egypt via Philistine (The Holy Land). And Gd told Isaac to remain there and that He (Gd) will give to him all the blessings promised to Abraham.
In Gerar, the land of the Philistines, Isaac claims Rebecca is his sister, out of fear that he will be killed over her beauty. He farms the land, and reopens wells dug by his father Abraham. Eventually, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, perceives that Rebecca is Isaac’s wife. He reprimands Isaac, but then issues a decree that no one should touch them. While in Philistine, Isaac sows crops, and miraculously harvests many times more than a field’s normal yield.
The Philistines eventually became envious of Isaac’s wealth, and ask him to leave. He moves away from the city, settling in the Gerar Valley. There, Isaac’s servants dig two new wells but the Philistines contest his ownership over these wells. Isaac moves on and digs a third well. This well is uncontested and he names it Rehoboth “for now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land”
Isaac goes to Beersheba, where Gd appears to bless him and assure him that He (Gd) would always be with him. Abimelech travels to where Isaac is and requests to enter into a peace treaty with him; “We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee”.
Isaac agrees to Abimelech’s request and on that day, Isaac’s servants inform him that they have successfully dug another well. Isaac names it Shebah. Isaac is now becoming old and blind. He wants to bless Esau, but first asks him to hunt for his (Isaacs’) favorite game. Rebecca overhears, and devises a plan to disguise Jacob as Esau, including using goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother. She then prepares the meal and sends Jacob with it to Isaac.
Jacob receives the blessing for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land and mastery over his brother”
. Esau arrives soon after and only then does Isaac realize what has happened. He tries to comfort Esau with a minor blessing “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck”.
Esau remains furious and is determined to kill Jacob. Once again, Rebecca finds out and asks Isaac to send Jacob to Charan to find a wife. Isaac does so, and blesses Jacob again before he departs.
After Isaac sends Jacob to his brother-in-law Laban’s home, to marry one of his daughters, Esau also marries (again) this time to Machalat the daughter of Ishmael.
We see from this that Isaac was blinded concerning Esau’s (un)worthiness for the birthright, while Rebecca, who had lived under the same roof with the evil Besuel and Laban, saw through him and took steps to insure Jacob received the blessing, then finally, sent him away to safety. How often in families do we have this same situation where one parent favors a particular child. Does this contribute to sibling rivalry? Do we even recognize we are favoring one child over another? What if we have a difficult, unruly child? A very wise woman with many children once said that when a child of hers became “uncontrollable” she would immediately ask Gd to help her react to the child with love, and to provide her with a method to deal with the situation.
Next week Jacob leaves his hometown Be’er Sheva and journeys to Charan. On the way, he meets and struggles with an Angel.