After years of trying to have children, Rivkah is pregnant with twins, Yaakov and Esau. They wrestle with each other in her womb and through life. She asks the Source of Life what is going on and gets a response – younger twin will dominate the elder.
The Twins Mature
Esau grows up to be a skilled trapper a man of the field. Yaakov was wholesome, had a holistic perspective, and favored being at home with a book.
Famine and Relocation
Famine leads the family to move to Gerar. Being new in the village and therefore fearful, Yitzhak tells the towns people that Rivkah is his sister. King AviMelekh, see Yitzhak and Rivkah enjoying together. He understands they are a couple, gets angry, and confronts Yitzhak. They reach an understanding. Yitzhak and Rivkah are now under King AviMelekh‘s protection.
Wealth, Jealousy, and Water Wells
Yitzhak farms the area, does well, and gathers great wealth. As a result, the king and townspeople feel threatened. They become jealous, angry, and vengeful. They plugging the water wells Avraham had dug. King Avimelekh tells Yitzhak to get out of town, for he is too powerful for Gerar. It must be a difficult time for Yitzhak.
Yitzhak leaves. He has his team repair the wells the jealous towns people plugged up. Then, they dig a new well. Sadly, it is disputed. They try again with the same outcome. Finally, a third well is dug and not disputed. Mazal Tov! This is a shift in the energy. Yitzhak called the well Rehovot – Wide Open Space. He says
Now, G!D will grant us wide open space.adapted from Living Torah Aryeh Kaplan Gen 26:22
Yitzhak goes to Beer Sheva and has a vision of The Source of Life (YHVH).
I am God of you father Avraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and grant you many descendants because of My servant Avraham.Living Torah Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Gen 26:23-24
Yitzhak builds an alter there and called in God’s Name. He set up tents and had his servants dig a well.
Treaty with AviMelekh
King Avi Melekh, brings his general and entourage seek Yitzhak. They want a treatly. Certainly, this is unexpected as AviMelekh as had previously demanded Yitzhak and his family move out of Gerar. Yitzhak pauses first, and finally agrees to a treaty with AviMelekh. They each take an oath. The deal is sealed with celebration and feasting. King AviMelekh, his general, and entourage leave in peace.
Esau marries. His parents are unhappy with his choice of wives.
It is Rivkah’s idea. Furthermore, she helps Yaakov be successful in stealing the blessing from his first born brother. Together they fool Yitzhak into to believing Yaakov is Esau at a critical moment. Yitzhak, then, gives Yaakov, the blessing of the first born.
May God grant you the dew of heaven and the fat of Earth, much grain and wine. Nations will serve you; governments will bow down to you. You shall be like a lord over your brother; your mother’s children will prostrate themselves to you. Those who curse you are cursed, and those who bless you are blessed.Living Torah Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Gen 27:28-30
Esau, is furious that Yaakov got the blessing. He contemplates killing Yaakov after their father, dies, and get revenge.
Yaakov Leaves and Esau Marries Ishmael’s Daughter
Understandably, Yaakov fears for his life. He travels to the old country, Iran today, in hopes of marrying a daughter of Lavan, Rivkah‘s brother. His parents are clear he is not to marry a Canaanite woman, like his brother, Esau, did.
The parashah ends with Yaakov leaving and Esau being aware that Yitzhak and Rivkah did not approve of his two Canaanite wives. As a result, Esau marries Mahlat, Ishmael’s daughter, in an effort to gain approval from his parents.
A DEEPER LOOK INTO TOLDOT
The ancestors act deceitfully in this Torah portion. It can be hard to understand how it could unfold this way. These portions have helped me get a sense of the progression. I hope they are meaningful to you as well.
Yaakov steals the blessing from his first born brother, Esau, by fooling Yitzhak into to believing he was Esau. Why would he do this? `
1) Yaakov had purchased the birthright from Esau in exchange for lentil soup. It can be argued that Yaakov did own the birthright.
2)Yaakov‘s mother, Rivkah, directs Yaakov to lie to his father. She helps him carry out the deception. This being true, one could argue that Yaakov was being and obedient son.
Why would Rivkah tell Yaakov to steal the blessing and lie to Yitzhak ?
The pregnancy is difficult. The unborn children are battling in Rebecca’s womb. She got ill. Rebecca asked The Source of Life (YHVH), why this was happening and got a reply,
‘Two nations are in your womb. Two governments will separate from inside of you. The upper hand will move from one government to the other. They will separate and the greater one will serve the younger’.Living Torah Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Gen 25:23
Apparently, Rebecca knew which child would be the leader even when she was pregnant. This made her take action.
It is important that our ancestral role models be ethical. The thread in Toldot sheds light on how this unfolding could transpire with a semblance of ethics. Sometimes I think Yitzhak knew what was happening all along.
THIS WEEK WE COUNT TOLDOT
YESOD IN HESED – BEING INTIMATE WHILE EXPANDING
HESED AS EXPANDING LOVE, GRACE, BENEVOLENCE, WATER, EXPANSION
Rivkah‘s belated pregnancy is Hesed, Grace manifest.
DIGGING WELLS – HESED AS WATER
Yitzhak digs water wells in Toldot. First, he releases water (Hesed) from wells his father, Avraham (Hesed), had dug. (This is Hesed squared). Next, he locates and digs brand new water wells.
“No, not Water, it is Torah” (Baba Kama 17A) A meta understanding based on this verse from Talmud sees water as Torah. Yitzhak retaught and refreshed the Torah of his father that had stopped flowing. Additionally, Yitzhak dug new wells. The first two were disputed and the third was not disputed. Apparently, he was digging deep and brought in new insights. Some didn’t quite flush out. Eventually, he found his way and ability to move forward at Rehovot.
The digging of the well Yitzhak at Rehovot, (literally ‘Wide Spaces’ or ‘Expanse’) signals a shift for Yitzhak and his family. King AviMelekh and his entourage apparently heard about it, and visited Yitzhak to secure ongoing peace.
YESOD AS INTIMACY, SEXUALITY, FOUNDATION, BIRTHING
TOLDOT AS YESOD
The name of this Torah portion, Toldot, shares a root with birthing – a foundational aspect of this portion.
YITZHAK AND RIVKAH INTIMACY AS YESOD
Yitzhak and Rivkah‘s playful intimacy was witnessed by King AviMelekh. He sees them playing together and realized they were NOT brother and sister as he and the community had been told.
THE BLESSING, BIRTHRIGHT, AND SUBSEQUENT GENERATIONS AS YESOD
Rivkah is working with Yesod – the lineage. She takes charge in making sure Yaakov gets the blessing and birth right.
Rivkah and Yitzhak disliked Esau‘s Canaanite wives. They want to make sure Yaakov makes different choices. Rivkah and Yitzhak did not approve of Esau‘s wives and did not want the lineage to go there.
They send Yaakov back to the old country, contemporary Iran, telling him to marry a daughter of uncle Lavan. They wanted the lineage to come from through in specific ways.
Why does this parashah in the S’firah cycle, Toldot, correspond to Yesod of Hesed?
Perhaps, because the S’firah of Yesod is a focusing of the flow as it moves towards Sh’khinah/Malkhut. This process starts at the beginning of the S’firot. The long development and purifying process is moving toward a completion through Hesed. When we understand Yitzhak‘s blessing as passing on Hesed, a flow of lovingkindness, then in this parashah we see a selection being made as to who will carry and transmit Avraham‘s (Hesed) blessing in the next generation.
adapted from Meta Parashiyot by R David Wolfe-Blank zt”l
adapted from Living Torah Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Meta Parashiyot by R David Wolfe-Blank
Skillful presentation of Torah portion.
Very helpful in understanding the different
levels of interpretation.
Rabbi Michael, It is nice to hear from you. Smiles and Blessings, 🙂