Torah Portion: Tol’dot (History) B’resheet Genesis 25-28

HafTorah: Malachi 1:1-2:7

In this section of scripture we read about the birth of twins to Rivkah and Yitzak. We read of the on going tension between the boys and the eventual leaving of Ya’acov to the home of Rivkah’s brother. This section is filled with relational issues that arise in a family and I think gives us some insight in the correct way to deal with them. This is the main thrust of what I would like to look at today.

First, however, I would like to get your responses to my first question this week. What three things set Yitzak apart from the other two patriarchs? First, Ya’acov never left the Land of Promise. Second, He only had one wife and third he never had his name changed. In Jewish commentaries this is part of the reason he is seen as the most spiritual of the three.  One other thing, how long did he pray for a child? He prayed twenty years. He and Rivkah waited on G-d and did not resort to taking another wife.

Now I want us to look at the actions of the people in this section as they dealt with each other. The first issue we see between the brothers is in the matter of the birthright. Esav returned from hunting, Ya’acov was making red lentil soup. Esav asked for a bowl of soup which his brother offered to him in exchange for his birthright. What was included in the birthright? The birthright included a double portion of the material wealth of the clan on the death of the father and more importantly the spiritual leadership of the family. Esav accepted the offer and the Torah says he sat, ate, rose up and left. What might we infer from his actions? He was impetuous, and his flesh ruled his actions. In fact the Torah says he wasted his birthright – all for a bowl of soup. He was ruled by instant gratification. Ya’acov did not cheat him. Esav agreed to the deal.

Our next issue I want to examine is the giving of the blessing by Yitzak. First a little back ground on Genesis 25:19-20. Avraham’s name is mentioned twice. Usually this is a sign G-d is saying something. Then we see Rivkah’s lineage mentioned. In this you find three words: Aramean, aram and Aramean again. It will help us here to know that the root of these words is ramai (meaning to deceive). So Torah is giving us a picture of the coming conflict in some ways. The battle between how the family will be led – by the promises of G-d to Avraham or by the deception of Rivkah’s family of origin.  Remember when Rivkah was chosen by the servant to be Yitzak’s wife and her family tried to delay the process? They asked to delay her leaving. When the question was put to her she quickly chose to go away from her family. She readily embraced the G-d of Yitzak. The Torah tells us she moved straight away into Sarah’s tent. All this tells us she had turned her back on her family’s deceptive ways.

Then we come to this incident of the blessing. Rivkah knew that Ya’acov was to be the leader of the family. G-d told her as much. She also knew that Yitzak loved Esav more than Ya’acov. She is faced with a dilemma. What to do? Here we come to the faith crisis. As believers we are often faced with choices. How to deal with an issue, face it head on or maybe employee methods that we learned in our families of origin that do not bring life. Are we ever tempted to lie or not be completely honest to get the result we think is best? I expect she had this battle in her spirit – trust G-d or take care of it yourself. She reverted back to what had worked at home and did not rely on G-d to bring about His will in the blessing of her sons. She and Ya’acov both deceived their husband and father. My point is, good does not come from deception. We surely see it in Ya’acov’s life. He is cheated and deceived over and over in the years of his life. Laban cheats him and he worked many years for his love. His sons later deceive him saying Yosef was dead. Notice anything about these two deceptions? First he married the wrong woman, as Yitzak had blessed the wrong son, both because they could not see. Later he is told his favorite son is dead and it is proven to him by the clothes of the son. He and his mother used Esav’s clothes to deceive Yitzak. The deception of Ya’acov returned to him.

My point is, we as G-d’s children have been and are adopted into the family of G-d. We can’t return to the ways of our past. If we do the lessons can be difficult for us to bear. We are new creations and as such are called to live not as deceivers but as believers. G-d has us. We do not have to resort to our old unredeemed ways to work things out in our life.