Blog Toldot Kislev 2nd 5779 בלוג תּוֹלְדֹת, ב’ כסלו תשע”ט
The Torah needs to be seen not as a book of laws, doctrines and dogmas but as a book of stories which teach us principles by which to live. Our three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all mentioned in this portion Toldot each at different stages of their lives. As a matter of interest, we can see that the stories are not chronological since the last portion speaks of Abraham’s death however if we examine the facts, Abraham was 160 yrs. old when Isaac had the twins Jacob and Esau at 60. The twins were teenagers when Abraham died at the age of 175. It is not a matter of the Torah being factually correct rather the Torah teaches us through stories which are repeated in patterns meant to show us how the Creator works in our lives.
When we compare the stories of Sarah and Rivkah, we see that they lived similar lives. They both left the comfort of their homes (like Avraham) to go to the Promised Land. Rivkah provided water to the servant’s camels at the well and similar stories which take place at the well are repeated with Jacob and Rachel and Moshe and Tzipporah (the difference is that Jacob and Moses served). Rivkah was truly a matriarch like Sarah and like her, Rivkah and Rachel were also strong women. In all these pictures, the Creator is giving us a lesson – that nothing in life comes easy. He doesn’t give us handouts. We need to work hard for everything we get contrary to some religions which teach that all we need to do is believe in the right thing and everything is given to you! That is the greatest lie. It is true that the Creator covers and protects us, but we need to act responsibly and there are times we will fail. Our heroes were far from perfect in contrast with how religions portray them. Religious settings take away our humanity and try to make us perfect. God does not ask perfection from us; all He asks is that we be loyal and faithful to Him, even when we fail and fail, we will.
We learn a good lesson in psychology from Jacob and Esau who were twins; one favored by the father and one by the mother. Psychological studies have shown that the odd numbered children are favored by the father and the even numbered babies belong to the mother. The Torah states that Isaac loved Esau and Rivkah loved Jacob. This is a recipe for disaster. When parents show favoritism among their children, it destroys the home. Jacob would later repeat the pattern he had learned from his father Isaac. Our only hope in changing this is for us to humble ourselves and to do true teshuva.
The story of Isaac is interesting. He didn’t choose his wife Rivkah; she was brought to him and she was the one who replaced his mother. Isaac had always lived under the influence of a strong woman. At that time, women lived in a patriarchal society and so they were forced to do everything from behind the scenes. There was no “me too movement” at that time. That is why Rivkah did not tell Isaac what she was going to do and basically manipulated things to go her way. This is not a new. We see the same conniving take place with Eve and Adam and even Sarah. Rivkah would do whatever she thought was necessary to achieve her objectives. There is a very popular proverb that we know: “man proposes, and God disposes”. It is written in Proverbs 19:21 “There are many devices in a man’s heart; but the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” רַבּוֹת מַחֲשָׁבוֹת בְּלֶב-אִישׁ; וַעֲצַת יְהוָה, הִיא תָקוּם. Whether or not we follow the will of the Creator, His Will shall be done, with or without our help. He doesn’t need our help; we need His!
One important principle that we can learn from this portion is that being part of Israel is not a matter of parental bloodline as we have been taught. Jacob and Esau came from the same parents, yet one was chosen, and the other was not. Esau cared little about serving the God of his father and grandfather. Rivkah would have known in her soul that Jacob was the chosen one to continue the line of our people. Isaac also knew since he gave Jacob the blessing and stuck to it even after confronted by Esau. Being chosen is not a privilege, it’s a great responsibility. It is not easy; it is hard work. “Have you been chosen”? Is the Creator speaking to you in this day and age and preparing you for a special role? When you run away from your calling, you will never be happy but once you find your calling, you will see how full your life will be.