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Toledot Summaries

Toledot 5780-2019

“A Lesson from Jacob and Esau: Understanding and Accepting Differences”
(Updated and revised from Toledot 5760-1999)

Some bold commentators have suggested that the difficulties between Jacob and Esau may be due to the fact that not enough attention was paid to the innate differences in the children’s natures, and that they were both, mistakenly, given the same cookie-cutter education. There is always a great price to pay for not recognizing that children have individual and personal needs that must be addressed.

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Toledot 5779-2018

“The Dangers of Assimilation”

When peace was made between him and the king of Gerar, Isaac realized that it was time to move away, to distance himself so that he could maintain his strong Jewish identity and live a full Jewish life with intensity and passion. Contemporary Jews, may need to do the same to ensure their own continuity.

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Toledot 5778-2017

“Isaac’s Unconditional Love for Esau”

Isaac’s unconditional love for his prodigal son, Esau, serves as a model for all parents, and the inevitable challenges faced in childrearing.

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Toledot 5777-2016

“The Exceptional Power of Prayer”

A powerful lesson regarding the immense power of prayer is taught when Isaac and Rebecca pray for a child and G-d responds affirmatively, with the births of Esau and Jacob.

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Toledot 5776-2015

“Rebecca Inquires of G-d”

The Torah reports that Rebecca seeks an answer for her terrible pains of pregnancy by inquiring of G-d. Who does Rebecca seek and what does she find?

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Toledot 5775-2014

“Good Families Bad Children, Bad Families Good Children”

Although Esau and Jacob were twin sons born to Isaac and Rebecca, each one developed very differently and chose a very different lifestyle from the other.

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Toledot 5774-2013

“A Revolutionary Definition of Parenthood”

In his comments on parashat Toledot, Rabbi Joseph B. Soleveitchik attributes to Abraham the introduction of a bold and extraordinarily novel concept of parenthood — the “teaching parent.”

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Toledot 5773-2012

“The Sale of the Birthright”

What really took place at the sale of the birthright? The Midrash fills in the many edifying details.

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Toledot 5772-2011

“Isaac Blesses His Sons”

Professor Menashe Duvshani was for many years the premier Bible educator for Israeli high school students. He offers a unique view on the story of Isaac blessing his sons.

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Toledot 5771-2010

“Isaac, the Man of Commitment”

When comparing Isaac’s experiences in Gerar, we find several similarities with Abraham’s experiences in both Gerar and Egypt. But what accounts for the many differences?

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Toledot 5770-2009

“The Jew Under the Microscope”

Jewish material success in the diaspora has often resulted in resentment of the Jew. This principle is clearly articulated in Isaac’s successful endeavors in Grar and his subsequent expulsion.

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Toledot 5769-2008

“The Blessings of a Tzaddik”

Isaac wants to bless his son Esau. Rebecca feels that Jacob is more deserving of the blessing. Does a tzaddik (a righteous person) really have the power to bestow blessings on others? Don’t all blessings really belong to G-d?

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Toledot 5768-2007

“Esau’s Loud and Bitter Cry”

When Esau realizes that he has been deceived of his blessing, he lets out a loud and bitter cry. Our commentators struggle to understand the cause and repercussions of this bitter cry. Some of the commentators suggest that all future generations pay for causing undue pain to Esau, expressed in his loud and bitter cry.

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Toledot 5767-2006

“The Unanswered Prayer”

Rebecca is barren, and she and Isaac pray for a child. Scripture tells us that G-d responds to Isaac’s prayer and Rebecca becomes pregnant. What happened to Rebecca’s prayer?

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Toledot 5766-2005

“Why Was Rebecca Barren?”

In parashat Toledot, Isaac and Rebecca both pray that Rebecca will be blessed with a child. After many years of barrenness, G-d listens to the prayer and Rebecca conceives. Why was Rebecca barren, and why were the other matriarchs–Sara and Rachel–also barren? Our rabbis offer up a host of answers. Those answers notwithstanding, we need to be more sensitive in our relations to those couples who pray for children and are not given a positive response.

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Toledot 5765-2004

“Digging Wells”

Parashat Toledot tells of numerous occasions when Isaac and his servants go out to dig wells. What is so significant about well digging that impels the most important document in Judaism to not only recount that Isaac dug numerous wells, but to even list the well’s names? Obviously, these ancient wells were signposts of Jewish identity, Jewish pride and Jewish outreach. We learn from Isaac and his wells that the anti-Semites do not respect Jews who are ashamed of their heritage. On the other hand, non-Jews cannot help but admire those Jews who stand up proudly and state without reticence or embarrassment, “I am a Jew!”

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Toledot 5764-2003

“The Theological Underpinnings of Anti-Semitism”

In one of the first recorded acts of anti-Semitism, the Philistines blocked up the wells that had been dug by Abraham’s servants. The juxtaposition of this act with the description of the economic success that was enjoyed by Abraham’s son leads one to believe that the motivation for the evil acts perpetrated against him was economic envy. Is that truly the primary cause of this and other hateful acts perpetuated against Jews?

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Toledot 5763-2002

“The Deeds of the Fathers are Signposts for the Children”

In parashat Toledot we read for the third time the story of our patriarchs going to Egypt or to Gerar on account of famine. This time it’s Isaac and Rebecca, rather than Abraham and Sarah, but the stories are virtually identical to the previous two. The famed Italian Bible scholar, Umberto Cassuto, suggests that this story is a paradigm, and its frequent repetition is predictive of what will happen to the Jewish people in the future. There will be a famine, and the families of the descendants of Abraham and Isaac will leave Canaan and go into exile. The men will be threatened with death, but the women will be allowed to live. Eventually, the people will go out with great wealth.

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Toledot 5762-2001

“The Deception of Isaac”

How is it possible that the great patriarch Isaac wished to give the blessing to his son Esau rather than to the more deserving Jacob? A possible approach to this quandary may be found in the suggestion that Isaac never intended to give the Abrahamitic blessing of inheriting the land of Canaan to Esau. What he merely wished to promise Esau was wealth, success in the field and dominion over his brothers. Rebecca, however, was unaware of Isaac’s true intentions. Unfortunately, Rebecca is unable to approach Isaac directly, resorting to a clever plan in order to make certain that Esau does not receive the blessings of Jewish destiny.

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Toledot 5761-2000

“The Ancient Origins and Practices of Anti-Semitism”

We learn in parashat Toledot that the Philistines envied Isaac, resulting in the earliest acts of recorded anti-Semitism. The Philistines close up all the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug. It is likely that the Philistines also desperately needed water in this arid land, but they stopped up the wells just to make certain that Isaac and his family would be unable to use them. It is not unusual for anti-Semites to hurt themselves at least as much as they hurt their would-be victims, the Jews.

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Toledot 5760-1999

“A Lesson from Jacob and Esau: Understanding and Accepting Differences”

There are differences in children, and differences in parents’ attitudes towards children. Some of the commentators note that the difficulties between Jacob and Esau may be due to the fact that not enough attention was paid to the innate differences in the childrens’ natures, and that they were both given the same cookie-cutter educational experiences. There is a great price to pay for not recognizing each child’s individual needs.

Link to full version