Torah Weekly

For the week ending 18 November 2017 / 29 Heshvan 5778

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 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 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.


Waiting for G-dot

“These are the generations of Yitzchak ben Avraham; Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak.” (25:19)

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch remarks that the universal sign if you want someone to be quiet, if you want them to listen, is to raise your finger to your lips and say "Shh!" The sound of air flowing over lips is the universal sign to be still. The English word "hush" is connected with this sound. The same sound appears in the name of the month we are in — Cheshvan. The root of the word Cheshvan is chash, which in Hebrew means quiet.

The very name of the month commands us to be still, to be quiet and reflect.

If you look at the prayers of Rosh Hashana, the overwhelming theme is that exile of the G-d’s majesty. It’s true that we also speak about teshuva and mending our ways — but time and time again we pray for the day when the whole world will recognize that the G-d of Yisrael is the “The King”.

All of the anti-Semitism of the world, whether the BDS of the cultured glitteratus knocking another brick from the wall of Jewish security, or the bloodied kitchen knife of a fanatic slaughtering a family in their Shabbat peace, or a truck driven down a cycling path mowing down the young and innocent — all of this, at its root, is a denial of the G-d of Israel.

The reflection of the month of Cheshvan requires us to think: After praying so hard over the great High Holy Days, how much do our lives reflect that yearning for the coming of Mashiach and the re-establishment of the Kingdom of G-d?

For surely it is at hand.

The last verse of last week’s Torah portion says, “These were the years of Yishmael’s life… over all his brothers he dwelled.” This week’s portion begins, “These are the generations of Yitzchak ben Avraham; Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak.”

When Yishmael ceases to dwell over all his brothers, when the petro-dollars have dried up, then the sun of Mashiach ben David, the scion of Avraham, will rise.

May it be speedily in our days!

  • Source: Based on the Ba’al HaTurim

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