Parshat Toldot – November 21, 2020 – 5 Kislev, 5781

Parsha  Toldot 

  • Stone Chumash, p. 124, 106 Psukim
  •  Haftorah: Malachi ch. 1 “Massa dvar Hashem”, Stone Chumash, p. 1137 / Hertz p. 102

Important Shabbat Times

  • Candle lighting:  4:35pm
  • Sunrise:                6:46:26am
  • Latest Shma AM: 9:18am
  • Earliest Mincha: 12:15pm
  • Havdalah:              5:34pm
  • Zoom Havdalah: 5:50pm
Rabbi Kelman’s Shabbat Sermon

Parshat Toldot 

Toldot recounts the history of Yitzchak Avinu, our father Isaac. Rebbeca is barren and begs Isaac to ask G-d for a child. G-d blesses Rivka with twins. The first is of a ruddy complexion and covered with hair, and he is named Esav. The second grabs the heel of Esav, as if to preempt him, and he is named Yaakov (heel). The boys grow, and Esav becomes a hunter or a man of “field” and Jacob is the studious one, who spends most of his time indoors.   

Isaac must leave Israel as his father did because of a terrible famine. G-d tells Yitzchak, that since he became consecrated as a sacrifice during the Akeida, he must stay in Israel, and he moves to Grar (modern day Gaza). The inhabitants are jealous of Yitzchak and involve him in a series of disputes over the wells which he had dug. In the end they compromise and they call the well Beer Sheva, or the seventh well. 

Isaac has become old, and blind, and decides to pass on his special blessings of “ the peoplehood of Israel”, to Esav.  Rivka knows that Esav does not deserve this distinction, and she convinces younger son, Yaakov to rescue the blessings for himself. Yaakov is concerned that his father will figure out any ruse and may instead curse him. His mother assures him that no curse will befall him. Yaakov dresses in Esav’s clothing, and succeeds in procuring the blessings. When Esav finds out he screams, yet he admits to having been “fooled before” by selling his birthright to Yaakov. Both Yitzchak and Rivka, now understand that Yaakov has earned the blessings, and tell him to flee, as his brother Esav, wants to kill him. 

The Moral of the Story

How could Isaac wish to bestow the heavenly blessings upon Esau- surely he must have known by then, that Esau was a man of this world and had no real interest in spiritual matters. His brother Yaakov on the other hand was exactly the opposite! Shouldn’t Yaakov have been the obvious choice for the blessings of Abraham?

Perhaps we may suggest that Isaac, in his capacity as a prophet, understood very well that in the future, the People of Israel would have their very existence challenged on a daily basis, and they would need an ample dose of “street smarts” in order to survive. Isaac looked at both Jacob and Esau, and Esau became his obvious choice. However when Jacob showed that he could best Esau when he needed to, Isaac suddenly realized that Jacob was blessed with both qualities, and therefore was truly worthy of the blessings he received.

Mitzvah of the Week: Mitzvah #142

It is a special mitzvah to offer a Thanksgiving sacrifice, in the Temple, after one experiences a miracle, as it states (Lev. 7/15), “and the meat of the sacrifice of thanksgiving etc”. According to tradition, one who 1) is redeemed from prison, 2) traverses the sea, 3) recuperates from a sickness, or 4) traverses a desert, is obligated in bringing this sacrifice. Later authorities hold that these four occurrences are merely examples, and the law applies equally to any salvation from a true danger. 

Today one fulfills his obligation by reciting a special prayer “Hagomel” in the presence of a Minyan. It would also be laudatory to invite the community to a special meal / Kiddush of “Thanksgiving”- in order to publicize your great good fortune, thereby Sanctifying the Name of G-d.  The actual sacrifice only has application in the period of the Temple, and the prayer, – at all times in all periods, applying equally to  both male and female.