The following remarks were delivered by Toby Warticovshi, Vice Chair of Endowments & Planned Giving, as the d’var Torah at the Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
Toldot tells the story of Isaac and Rebecca’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau, who fought with each other even before they were born! In fact, Yaakov means Held by the Heel, as that is how he came into the world. Holding Esau’s heel.
Rebecca had been told that although Esau would be born first, Jacob would be the one to continue the Jewish people…
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23).
But Jacob wasn’t sure of this and one day he convinced Esau to sell him the special blessing he was due as the first-born son. Rebecca then helped her son Jacob to dress in Esau’s clothes and pretend to be his brother, tricking his almost-blind father Isaac into giving him Esau’s first-born blessing.
Did Rebecca and Jacob deceive Isaac? Maybe!
“The boys grew up. Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Gen. 25:27-28).
Rebecca had watched her sons grow and knew the boy’s personalities. As mentioned earlier, she also had received a message from God that indicated Jacob was chosen to lead the Jewish people. She wanted to ensure the future of the Jewish People. This is why she encouraged Jacob in his mission. Perhaps there was a higher purpose!
But….was Isaac deceived?
Isaac despite being almost blind, knew exactly what was going on. He knew that Esau had deceived him with his words, and his actions did not keep with the Jewish tradition. Based on Esau’s traits, Isaac came to the conclusion that Esau would not be his choice to lead the Jewish people. But he did not want to hurt him, like he was hurt by his father Abraham. As you recall, Isaac’s was almost sacrificed by Abraham! So, Isaac adjusted his parenting style accordingly, something we can all relate to. He recognized Esau and Jacob for who they each were and their individual needs. He gave each of his sons the appropriate blessing:
The first blessing, intended for Esau, who was a man of the outdoors is about wealth – “May God give you of the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth” – and power, “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow to you.”
The second blessing, intended for Jacob, who was a homebody, is about children – “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples” – and a land – “May He give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of … the land God gave to Abraham.”
For me, parsha Toldot is about the challenges, opportunities, and difficult choices involved in the Continuity of the Jewish People (L’Dor Va Dor). It is very relevant for us, especially during COVID, and the choices we had and will have to make!
As a reminder, Jewish Federation’s mission is to mobilizes the Jewish community and its human and financial resources to preserve and enhance Jewish life in St. Louis, in Israel, and around the world.
The work we do to ensure the Continuity of the Jewish people is a sacred mission!