Torah Weekly

For the week ending 10 November 2007 / 29 Heshvan 5768

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. G-d 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 onto Esavs 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 days 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 G-d 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 dug by his father, prophetically alluding to the three future Temples. Avimelech, seeing that Yitzchak is blessed by G-d, 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, so Rivka sends Yaakov to her brother Lavan where he may find a suitable wife.


The Seed of Eternity

“Because Avraham obeyed… My Torah” (26:5)

Nothing in the Torah is merely poetic.

True, the Torah is esteemed as great literature; the Psalms of King David, even exported from their native tongue, express mankind’s longings, his hopes and his dejection, his frustration and his joy.

No book has been more read, more quoted or more distorted than the Jewish Bible.

The Torah, however, is more than a book of beautiful words and lofty sentiments; it is more than the highest code of behavior demanded of a human being.

The Torah is the seed of eternity.

After the public reading of the Torah, we make a blessing:We thank G-d “Who has given us a Torah of truth and planted within us eternal life.”

A casual examination of those words might impress us with the poetic symbolism of an eternal life planted within us. However, the Torah never departs from its simple meaning.

What is the true understanding of the symbolic connection of planting with eternal life?

The plant will never be more than the seed.

In every seed is the entire DNA of the plant. The seed is the blueprint of the plant; it determines what the plant will be. Our eternal life is planted in this world; every positive thought and action is a seed that flowers into a reality that lives forever.

Those flowers are our eternal life

And what we don’t plant will never flower.

It’s as simple as that.

However, what does “a Torah of truth” have to do with the planting of an eternal life? Why do we mention the implanting of eternal life in the blessing after the Torah?

The Torah’s blessing is eternal life.

The word Torah derives from horah, which means, “to conceive”. Just as an embryo starts to grow from a seed at the time of conception, so too the Torah builds within us a new life, ennobling us and lifting us to a spirituality and a unique inclination to good.

Our holy Torah, that seed of eternity, makes our bodies holy, so that they become fit partners for the soul’s journey into infinity.

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