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Parashat Toldot - examining the bigger picture

Saturday 10 November 2018 2 Kislev 5779

Parashat Toldot

Genesis 25:19-28:9; Malachi 1:1-2:7; Romans 9:1-13

B’racha before Studying Torah

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu la’asok b’divrei torah. Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to study words of Torah.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך–הָעולָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְותָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לַעֲסק בְּדִבְרֵי-תורָה.

It is easy to read through the history of the Patriarchs and get lost in the detail. All we tend to see is human weaknesses, decisions and error. FFOZ in their commentary likens this to standing very close to an oil painting where you can see each brush stroke clearly. But, it is only when you step back that you can appreciate the painting as it was intended to be viewed. Similarly, we need to take a step back from the detail of our Torah studies in case we miss or overlook the bigger picture.

All the Patriarchs are portrayed as weak and flawed characters and one might justifiably wonder ‘where was G-d in all of this”? When we examine the details recorded in our parasha, it is easy to get lost among the trees, and miss the river that runs through the next valley. It is when we stand back for a moment and seek ‘the bigger picture’, we will discover G-d’s Hand guiding the narrative.

What we discover is HaShem’s revelation of Himself and His eternal purposes for mankind. We see:

  • His sovereignty in birth

  • His sovereignty over the Land

  • His sovereignty over inheritance

Let’s briefly examine Isaac:

Gen 25:28

28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Isaac preferred Esau because he fed his father’s carnal appetite. Where was his spiritual discernment? Let’s not forget that he was trained up by righteous Abraham. Also, we must bear in mind that he was found to be worthy of being offered up as a sacrifice and only a perfect, spotless sacrifice could be placed on the altar of G-d. Therefore, we must assume that Isaac followed in the footsteps of his righteous father (Abraham) and was worthy to be included as a Patriarch!

How then do we understand this? 2 questions arise from this single verse: -

1. How could Yitzhak love Esav who appears to be the wicked son? 2. Why is the love for Esav written in past tense and why is the love for Ya’acov

written in present tense? The rabbis teach us an important lesson here. Rivka "loves" Ya’acov and her love was not connected to anything or for any personal gain. Rather, her love for Isaac is pure - "she'enah teluya bedavar". The love for Esav however is written in past tense because it is love that is "talui bedavar" or "dependant love". In other words, it is not selfless love. In 1 Cor 13:5, Sha’ul specifically states that ‘love is not self-seeking’.

Genesis 25:28 says that Isaac loved Essau (past tense) because he ate of the game that Essau hunted. And so, one could say that Yitzhak loved Esav for a reason – ‘because he ate of his game’. If you love something or someone because of an ulterior motive, that is not true love. Once that something is removed, the love fades.

And yet, although Isaac comes across as weak and apparently ruled by his carnal appetites, we tend to forget one crucial point. Isaac was found to be worthy of being a perfect sacrifice! He did not have one blemish (physically & spiritually), and therefore, was found worthy to be offered up at Akeidat Yitzhak. This is an interesting thought. The sacrifice had to be unblemished and perfect. So, because of his honest and pure nature, had little concept of deception.

However, his mother Rivka grew up with an evil brother Laban, and she understood deception very well. Because of this, she loved Ya’acov and her love for the son chosen by G-d was ongoing. It was independent of what Isaac or Jacob did or did not do. This is why her love for her son is in the present continuous tense.

Then, in chapter 25:27 we begin to learn about the character of the 2 men. It says "the boys grew up and Esau became a skilful hunter a man of the open country while Jacob was a plain man dwelling in tents." Notice here it says man not boy. In fact, when you do the maths you will discover that Jacob was in his 70’s when he fled from Esau because he had ‘stolen’ the birth right. They were elderly men, not youngsters.

Esau – the outdoor type; what we could call a rough character.

Jacob – a student of Torah. He almost seems to be a bit of a mama's boy.

But, let's look at that word "plain" in Hebrew. This word in Hebrew would be pronounced "tawm". It is used 18 times in the Old Testament. It is translated by the KJV (King James Version) with these 3 English words

1. Perfect: Job 1:1

2. Upright: Prov. 10:29

3. Undefiled: Song of Solomon 5:2

Of the 18 times it is used, these 3 words make up 17 of those times. The only single time the word TAWM is translated as “plain" is here, when it is used to describe Isaac.

Why did the KJV translators write "plain" instead of upright, undefiled or perfect? Because of the bias of the translators. This scripture should've said "And Jacob was a perfect, upright or undefiled man dwelling in tents". What a different picture that would've given us rather than "plain". We never would've gotten a misrepresented story concerning Jacob had we read this from the very beginning.

So often, the English translations are incomplete, glossing significant insights and meanings that are lost in translation.

‘Plain’ Jacob was worthy to become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel and as such, though humanly flawed as we all are, he was approved of God and the covenant of Abraham was passed to the next generation.

Then, we read that Jacob and Esau fought (agitated) while still in their mother’s womb. The Rabbis explain that the Hebrew word for ‘agitated’ is ‘vayitzrotzezu’, is derived from the root word ‘reits’ which means ‘to run’. And so, making use of poetic license, the midrash says that when Rebecca would walk passed the Torah academy of Shem and Eber, Jacob "ran" and struggled to come forth. However, when she passed a temple of idol worship, Esau "ran" and struggled to come forth (Midrash).

Gur Aryeh explains that this embryonic Jacob-Esau struggle was not influenced by their personal good and evil inclinations, for they are not present before birth. Rather, Jacob and Esau represented cosmic forces in creation, forces that transcended the normal course of personality development, and that existed even before birth. This is more than the struggle of the good and not so good character traits that Paul mentions in Romans 7 – the struggle between the two natures. This is the cosmic battle between HaShem and those who oppose His eternal plans and purposes.

It is important to notice that the Torah explains that the children in her womb were opposites of one another. They would eventually go two different ways. It says in Malachi,

“’I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Is not Esau Jacob's brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.’ If Edom says, ‘We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,’ the LORD of hosts says, ‘They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” (Mal 1:2-4)

Paul wrote about the things that happened to the fathers, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Cor 10:11) It says in Psalm 102:19, “Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.” In the Hebrew text, it literally says, “Let this be recorded for the last generation.”

The Bible is written especially for the last generation. The fact that Rebekah gave birth to Jacob and Esau after twenty years (v. 26) is a prophecy that the bride and the harlot will manifest in specific ways in the end times, over two thousand years after the death and resurrection of Messiah. Both come out of the assembly of the Messiah, as pictured by Rebekah. But eventually, they will go separate ways. The tares will be removed from the wheat.

One of them will fall away from the faith to become the harlot - “a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” (Rev 18:2)

The other, however, will be purified and prepared for the wedding supper of the Lamb. “’…it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Rev 19:8)

May we all be found worthy to be included in this marvellous feast!

Shabbat shalom!

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