Weekly Reading Insights

Toldot 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Toledot
To be read on 4 Kislev 5763 (Nov. 9)

Torah: Genesis 25:19-28:9;Haftorah: Malachi 1:1-2:7

Stats:Toledot, 6th out of 12 in Genesis, contains 0 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot.
It is written on 173 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 36th out of 54 in overall length.

Yitzchak married Rivkah when he was forty. When he was sixty, Rivkah gave birth to twins, Esav and Yacov. At age fifteen, Esav returned one day from hunting in the fields, tired and hungry, and asked Yacov for some food. Yacov told him to sell him his birthright, which he did. There was a famine in the land, but G-d told Yitzchak to remain in the land. Yitzchak went to Gerar, near the border, where he said to the people there that Rivkah was his sister, as he was afraid that he would be killed because of her. When king Avimelech found out he issued a decree that should anyone touch Yitzchak or Rivkah they would be killed. Yitzchak farmed and became wealthy. The Philistines became jealous and filled in his wells. Avimelech told him to leave.

Yitzchak eventually arrived in Be’er Sheva. He made a peace treaty with Avimelech. When Esav was forty he married Judith and Basemath. Yitzchak became old and his eyesight was fading. He told Esav to prepare him a meal, and he would bless him before he died. Rivkah heard this and told Yacov that she would prepare a meal for his father, and he should take the blessing instead of Esav. Esav was furious, and planned to kill Yacov after his father’s death. Rivkah heard of this and sent Yacov away. Yitzchak blessed Yacov and told him not to marry a Canaanite girl. Yacov left for the house of Lavan, Rivkah’s brother. Esav understood that his father was displeased with Canaanite girls, and married Ishmael’s daughter Machlat.


"The boys grew up, and Esav [Esau] was an expert hunter." (25:27)
"Expert at deceiving his father into believing him to be pious and a scrupulous observer of the commandments." - Rashi

Esav's hypocrisy is symbolic of our present Exile, in which the forces of evil are not as readily identifiable as they were during previous exiles. It is for this reason that our Exile is termed "Galut Edom" ("the Exile of Edom"), for the nation of Edom is descended from Esav. When Moshiach comes, the "Deliverers will go up to Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esav, and kingship will be the L-rd's."

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of
Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

We read in Samuel 1 16, 12 that David is described as “Admoni im yafeh einayim v’tov ri’eeh”, “ruddy cheeked, bright-eyed and handsome.” The first person to be described as Admoni (ruddy) was Esau; it is therefore hardly a compliment to David to be similarly described. The essential difference is that whereas Esau was Ayin ra (evil eye), represented all that is negative associated with the eye, David was the reverse, and is therefore described as Yafeh Einayim (bright eyes). In David’s case the positive aspects of eyes are meant: the prophet therefore describes him as tov ri’eeh. Solomon, who says in Kohelet 10,8: that “he who breaches the fence will be bitten by a snake,” may have referred to David’s forbear Peretz, whom the Torah had described as “bursting out” (Genesis 38,29). The nachash (snake) referred to is the power of Esau. King Saul repaired the fence partially when he defeated Nachash, king of Ammon, who went to war against Israel as reported in Samuel 1 11, 1. David also accomplished a great deal in this area during his reign. In the future, as the Messiah, however, he will take revenge on the forces of Esau in the manner of a serpent, as we know from Isaiah 14,29: “For from the root of a snake there sprouts an asp.”

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:06-63 Toledot )

This week's parsha tells how Yitzchok became blind in his old age (27/1). For what reason did this happen? Certainly age was not the reason; in the era of the forefathers, many people were in their physical prime at Yitzchok's age [123], and blindness was not mentioned about anyone else. Also, shortly before reading this verse, the Torah writes, "and G-d blessed Yitzchok" (25/11). Shouldn't G-d's blessing prevent illnesses and in particular blindness of which it is said, 'one who is blind is as deceased' (Nedarim 64/2). If so, what was the reason for Yitzchok's blindness?

One of the reasons given is that Yitzchok favored Eisav, and G-d knew that he wished to give the primary blessings to Eisav. In blinding Yitzchok, G-d enabled Yaacov to receive the blessings since Yitzchok would not see who he was blessing. If Yitzchok could see, he would undoubtedly bless Eisav, so G-d's purpose was to reroute the blessings to Yaacov.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out a basic question: Why did G-d have to make Yitzchok blind for Yaacov to be blessed? Wasn't there a more direct way through showing Yitzchok how evil Eisav really was? If Yitzchok could come that conclusion, then of course he would chose Yaacov to be blessed. Also, this revelation about Eisav shouldn't have come as too much of a shock. Yitzchok already knew that Eisav's wives were wicked women who served idols. Even if Yitzchok excused Eisav as not being responsible for his wives' sins or for unsuccessfully trying to change their ways, this fact surely must indicate something as to Eisav's character. Also, even Yitzchok admitted that Eisav 'does not mention G-d's Name very often' (Rashi on verse 27/21). If so, why didn't G-d just show Yitzchok that Eisav was a very sinful person and undeserving of the blessings?

The answer is that G-d did not want to say 'lashon hara'-bad speech-even about an evil person such as Eisav. [Likewise, when Yehoshua asked G-d for the name of the perpetrator of a sin, G-d answered 'Am I your tale-bearer?', and Yehoshua had to discover the man's identity through other means (Joshua ch. 7).] Therefore, the means for ensuring Yaacov's receiving the blessings was through causing Yitzchok's blindness.

G-d Himself took extreme measures so as to refrain from lashon hara about the truly evil Eisav. We are not G-d, Who knows everything; and no Jew falls into the category of Eisav. From all this we learn that we must go to great lengths to not speak badly of any other Jew. Lashon hara kills three: the teller, the listener, and the one being spoken about (Erachin 15b). The Ba'al Shem Tov explained that this killing is spiritual, which is much worse than actual murder! (HaYom Yom). May we all succeed in absolutely refraining from lashon hara and in speaking only lashon hatov-positive speech-about fellow Jews. May all this hasten the revelation of Moshiach, now!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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