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Toldot in a Nutshell

Toldot in a Nutshell

Genesis 25:19–28:9


Isaac and Rebecca endure twenty childless years, until their prayers are answered and Rebecca conceives. She experiences a difficult pregnancy as the “children struggle inside her”; G‑d tells her that “there are two nations in your womb,” and that the younger will prevail over the elder.

Esau emerges first; Jacob is born clutching Esau’s heel. Esau grows up to be “a cunning hunter, a man of the field”; Jacob is “a wholesome man,” a dweller in the tents of learning. Isaac favors Esau; Rebecca loves Jacob. Returning exhausted and hungry from the hunt one day, Esau sells his birthright (his rights as the firstborn) to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew.

In Gerar, in the land of the Philistines, Isaac presents Rebecca as his sister, out of fear that he will be killed by someone coveting her beauty. He farms the land, reopens the wells dug by his father Abraham, and digs a series of his own wells: over the first two there is strife with the Philistines, but the waters of the third well are enjoyed in tranquility.

Esau marries two Hittite women. Isaac grows old and blind, and expresses his desire to bless Esau before he dies. While Esau goes off to hunt for his father’s favorite food, Rebecca dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes, covers his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father. Jacob receives his father’s blessings for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land” and mastery over his brother. When Esau returns and the deception is revealed, all Isaac can do for his weeping son is to predict that he will live by his sword, and that when Jacob falters, the younger brother will forfeit his supremacy over the elder.

Jacob leaves home for Charan to flee Esau’s wrath and to find a wife in the family of his mother’s brother, Laban. Esau marries a third wife—Machalath, the daughter of Ishmael.

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Discussion (19)
November 28, 2013
Re: What makes the Torah great
In the larger picture, the story of the competition between Jacob and Esau serves to explain the later histories of these nations, and the trajectory of Jewish history, an integral part of which is the story of Jacob, which led to the choosing of Israel as recipients of the Torah and of a special position in world history. The Torah expects us to read Rebecca, whom G-d had made obvious as the fitting wife for Isaac, and Jacob, who was a wholesome man dwelling in tents, in a favorable light, not as connivers to disenfranchise another from his rightful heritage, but to save Isaac from blessing the wrong son, due to his "blind spot" regarding Esau. Later, Isaac indeed blesses Jacob consciously, and never holds his deception against him. G-d, too, blesses him, promising that His blessings to Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob. The very readiness of Jacob and Rebecca to risk everything for these blessings indicates that more was at stake than mere rivalry.
Rabbi Shmary Brownstein
November 4, 2013
G_d hated Esau? ( response to a comment above)
That is a very unusual comment. Because G_d created Esau. So is G_d creating people G_d hates? And this doesn't quite ring right to me. About a G_d who celebrates righteousness, goodness, that merciful and great G_d. I mean, deliberately making someone to HATE? That feels wrong. How would you like to know this. You were created because G_d hated you? Sorry, the logic here fails me.

Logic seems to fall down when we talk about stories, as in Exodus. Because without the Egyptians we'd have NO Exodus story. So are we supposed to love what we then hate? It's this way with the Greeks. I actually love our heritage, meaning the world's, and yet come That story, the Greeks are so denigrated, and even today, for that. I know at least one Jewish person who says, this, Oh, the Greeks. Pagans. And yet, if you look closely their gods and goddess stories have a lot to say about the human condition and they too, if you believe in a CREATOR, have got to be downloaded from the same Source. PARADOX.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
November 1, 2013
how did Isaac betroth a three year old (Rebecca)?
October 30, 2013
I understand that this site is for everybody and that is why you are using English names, but would it not make sense to use the real names, the names Torah is using? Fine you want to be all inclusive put it in parenthesis.
October 28, 2013
The mother's influence
The wife that Eliezer chose for Itzak was a beautiful, intelligent and hospitable woman, Characteristics in Jacob and the future of Israel. Is it no wonder that God so fit to have Jacob be the leader of God's people on their struggle to reach the promise land rather than Esau?
November 20, 2012
Sibling Rivalry
Ishmael/Isaac; Jacob/Esau. I't's all about heart: Esau was a carnal man, Jacob the spiritual one. We all have this inner struggle between carnality and spirit: the warning is that G-d hated Esau, father of the Edomites, meaning red, as in red-lentil stew. How a deceiver is more righteous than his brother, only G-d can tell, who probably informed Rebecca. I guess the end justifies the means. As Anna <above> says, this story is still being played out in the Middle East...
Chiang Mai
November 16, 2012
All of the Parsha
And it came to pass: Esau, the favored one, the tough guy, Jacob the 'nerd', the student. Well, the rest is history. Or is it?
robert maslansky
New York
December 17, 2011
Re: Mother and Child
Jerald, for insight into Rebecca's instructions to Jacob, see the articles here
Rochel Chein for
Binghamton, New York
November 30, 2011
The human struggle
Two nations born so our souls can evolve. The evolution is through the struggle. Cain and Able. Esau and Jacob. Arabs and Jews. Our own individual challenges. Earth is training ground. I think the lesson here is that our maker put us here to grow. There are challenges put in front of us individually and as a nation. It is intentionanal. We pray for help and guidance, but I'm beninning to understand that spiritual growth is almost always accompanied by inner (and sometimes outer) turmoil.
Delray beach, Fl
November 28, 2011
Mother and child
What made Rebecca choose Jacob during Esau's absence while obeying Isaac?
Dubai, UAE
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