Torah Weekly

For the week ending 26 November 2022 / 2 Kislev 5783

Parshat Toldot

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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After 20 years of marriage, Yitzchak’s prayers are answered and Rivka conceives twins. The pregnancy is extremely painful. Hashem reveals to Rivka that the suffering is a microcosmic prelude to the worldwide conflict that will rage between the two great nations descended from these twins, Rome and Israel. Esav is born, and then Yaakov, holding on to Esav’s heel. They grow, and Esav becomes a hunter, a man of the physical world, whereas Yaakov sits in the tents of Torah, developing his soul.

On the day of their grandfather Avraham’s funeral, Yaakov is cooking lentils, the traditional mourner's meal. Esav rushes in, ravenous from a hard day’s hunting, and sells his birthright (and its concomitant spiritual responsibilities) for a bowl of lentils, demonstrating his unworthiness for the position of firstborn.

A famine strikes Canaan and Yitzchak thinks of escaping to Egypt, but Hashem tells him that because he was bound as a sacrifice, he has become holy and must remain in the Holy Land. He relocates to Gerar in the land of the Philistines, where, to protect Rivka, he has to say she is his sister. The Philistines grow jealous of Yitzchak when he becomes immensely wealthy, and Avimelech the king asks him to leave. Yitzchak re-digs three wells that were dug by his father, prophetically alluding to the three future Temples. Avimelech, seeing that Yitzchak is blessed by Hashem, makes a treaty with him.

When Yitzchak senses his end approaching, he summons Esav to give him his blessings. Rivka, acting on a prophetic command that the blessings must go to Yaakov, arranges for Yaakov to impersonate Esav and receive the blessings. When Esav in frustration reveals to his father that Yaakov has bought the birthright, Yitzchak realizes that the birthright has been bestowed correctly on Yaakov and confirms the blessings he has given Yaakov. Esav vows to kill Yaakov, and so Rivka sends Yaakov to her brother Lavan where he could find a suitable wife.


Leave the Lobbus to Grow

“And the lads grew up…” (25:27)

To the best of my knowledge, the word ‘lobbus’ is a word that only British Jews recognize. I’m assuming it’s Yiddish but I’ve yet to meet an American Jew, or a Jew from anywhere else for that matter who knows what it means.

A lobbus is a naughty young boy, the sort who gets himself into scrapes and narrow escapes. He’s not bad but he’s ‘a bit of a lobbus.’

Why this word should be exclusively used by British Jews is a mystery to me. I can think of no other word in Yiddish (mind you that’s not saying a lot) that is local to only one region, especially since Jews from the States and the UK share English, the lingua franca of the world.

Yaakov was a ‘lobbus.’ Rashi says that until the age of Bar Mitzvah, he and Esav were similar to one another. Now, either this means that they were both angels, which I doubt, seeing as how Esav very shortly afterwards became an idol worshiper, rapist and murderer. (Ber. Rabbah 63:12). Therefore, it seems that young Yitzchak was not an absolute angel since he was ‘similar’ to his brother.

I think there is a lesson here for us parents. It’s easy to be panicked when our children don’t seem to be ‘toeing the line,’ especially when that line can be extremely narrow. With the inroads into our culture of the known new-age era’s ‘Weapons of Mass Distraction,’ our reaction is often to overreact and push our children in the direction we most fear.

The Brisker Rav was once asked how he had been successful in raising illustrious and holy children. He replied (in Yiddish), “Prayer with tears.”

Children, let us not forget, are people as well. One can only pray that they choose to dominate the Esav in them and follow their higher selves.

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