Toldot - A Conversation For the Ages
Toldot - What Is Isaac's Legacy?
Do you like trivia? Here's a question for you: who were Esau’s wives and how did Esau’s parents feel about them? No, it’s not a trick question; the Torah actually tells us. What is the lesson behind this?
Toldot Torah Portion: Genesis 25:19–28:9
Parshat Toldot begins with Isaac praying for his wife Rebecca, because she is barren. Isaac’s prayers are answered, and Rebecca conceives. She learns prophetically that she is carrying twins and that her children will become nations, but one will be stronger than the other, and “the elder will serve the younger.” When she delivers, the first baby to emerge is covered in red hair, and is named Esau. The second emerges clinging to the heel (eikev) of Esau, and he is named Jacob. Mazal tov!
The boys grow up, and their lives follow different paths: Esau becomes a hunter, and Jacob becomes a “tent dweller.” And their relationships with their parents differed as well: the Torah says that Isaac loved Esau, while Rebecca loved Jacob.
One day, Esau returns from hunting, and is particularly exhausted. He finds Jacob making a stew, and asks that Jacob give it to him. Jacob offers it to him in exchange for Esau’s birthright as a firstborn, and Esau agrees.
The narrative then takes a turn. A famine strikes the land, and Isaac moves his family to the land of Gerar, which was ruled by the Philistine king Avimelech. God gives Isaac strict instructions to stay there, and not to move on to the land of Egypt. Isaac settles in Gerar, and when the locals ask about Rebecca, Isaac tells them that he is his sister. (Of course, we see shades of Isaac’s parents here; Abraham had done the same thing with Sarah.) Avimelech discovers that Rebecca is, in fact, Isaac’s wife, and criticizes Isaac for deceiving the people.
Isaac prospers greatly while in Gerar, and the Philistines become jealous, causing Avimelech to ask Isaac to leave. Isaac moves away, digging several wells in a nearby area, but the Philistine shepherds claim ownership of the wells, and he is forced to move several more times. Finally, Isaac settles in
After Isaac’s adventures in Gerar, the Torah veers once again - into the next generation of the Abrahamic family. We learn that Esau marries two Hittite
Shortly after, Esau returns with his meal, only to discover that his brother has stolen his blessing. He vows to kill Jacob. Rebecca learns about