Parashat Toldot 5781 /  פרשת תּוֹלְדוֹת

Torah Portion: Genesis 25:19 – 28:9

Progeny & Prosperity

The sidra opens with the verse, “This is the progeny of Isaac the son of Abraham – Abraham begot Isaac” (Gen. 25:19).

Since every word in the Torah is important, why tell us that Abraham begot Isaac when we already know that Isaac was the son of Abraham?

Rashi explains that we not only need to know who was the father and who was the son, but that they looked like one another.

When you see father and son (or mother and daughter) together, you see an uncanny likeness between parent and child.

But once you get to know them you see that there are major differences between them. They each have their own personality, their own habits, their own approaches to life. There is a sameness – and a difference.

No wonder there is a b’rachah, “Blessed are You who makes everyone different.”

Each generation has its own problems and challenges. It’s great to learn from your parents’ example and apply it when you can, but don’t try to be a carbon copy of your parents.

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Sitting still in a room

Two brothers, and such a contrast.

“Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field: Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents” (Gen. 25:27).

The world seems to prefer Esau as a role model – dashing, dynamic, on the go, looked up to and admired by his contemporaries.

Jacob is what used to be called a “swot”, curled up with a book, uninterested in sporting prowess or physical pursuits – a person “dwelling in tents”, almost a parasite, doing nothing for society.

One can leaven both descriptions and find faults in Esau and virtues in Jacob, but to appreciate Jacob it is necessary to ask who it was who achieved the really significant changes and developments in history.

If the criterion is who marched with the armies and fought the battles, the answer is not Jacob. But it was the Jacobs who dwelt in tents who developed the great ideas that moulded mankind – summed up by Pascal who said, “All the evils of life are due to the fact that man has not learned how to sit still in a room”.

In the Jewish judgment, contemplative people who sit in a room or dwell in a tent are the ones who make all the difference.

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