30th November 2019 2 Kislev 5780
PARASHAT TOLDOT by Rabbi Dr. John Fischer, UMJC President
Gen 25”19 – 28:9; Mal 1:1 – 2:7; Matt 10:21 - 38
This week’s parasha contains a very important part of the ongoing account of Abraham and his family as those specially chosen by God to communicate his covenant blessings to the entire world. But it is also a lesson in proper priorities and perspectives, especially when it comes to responding appropriately to Adonai. And yet, it’s a story that is usually misunderstood and as a result is inaccurately told. It’s the account of Jacob and Esau.
To do real justice to this passage would take more time than this d’rash allows because it’s a complex narrative, which also includes significant contributions by Isaac and Rebekah in addition to their two sons. It also includes a cameo appearance by Noah. So the best I can do is hit some of the highlights.
As the account unfolds we learn that Isaac and Rebekah have a problem. They are unable to have children. As observant readers we’ve seen this before; it was the same issue that Abraham and Sarah had. And it’s part of the way our Jewish Scriptures speak to us. They tell their story using repeating patterns or paradigms. Isaac’s response to this situation is to pray. The Lord answers his prayer, but with the answer come unexpected complications. The answer is that Rebekah is to have twins, twins who soon cause a commotion within their mother. Being a person who is properly attuned to God, she talks to him about her situation.
Adonai’s response to her is quite striking, and it is absolutely essential to correctly reading the account of Jacob and Esau. The Lord says that the older son will serve the younger. Contrary to every usual practice of the ancient Near East, he tells Rebekah that her younger son will be the primary heir to the promises he made to Abraham—not the older son, but the younger son. God is behind this, not Jacob; it’s a matter of God’s decision, not Jacob’s deception! (An importan