(c) 1998 Rabbi David Markel Hall

Tol’dot means “generations”. It comes from the root yeled, meaning child, it usually indicates a bloodline offspring as is indicated by the meanings of the letters. Yod is the first letter of the sacred name of HaShem. Our offspring are a gift of HaShem so having His letter first recognizes His gift. Lamed is the first letter of lev or the heart which is the seat of passions. We can get very emotional about our children and these emotions carry us to the highest highs and the lowest lows. Finally, dalet is the first letter of dam or blood. The life is in the blood and our children are often as important to us as HaShem, so this word paints a picture of our own bloodline or descendants. In Tol’dot, the yod is reaching down to us making a vav. It is truly HaShem reaching down to us when our generations continue.

The generations being discussed in this week’s torah portion is the children or offspring of Yitzkhak (Isaac). Notice how HaShem promised that Avraham many nations would come from his loins. Yitzkhak was the one through whom the promise was given. There was only one, who was born late in the life of Avraham and Sarah. Sarah died, not having seen the promise. Avraham also died having one son of promise.

Vayetar “and he entreated” HaShem, and HaShem was entreated of him. The root, atar, means to burn incense. Yitzkhak went into a lengthy prayer session with HaShem. “How have you heard my voice”, asked Yitzkhak, “seeing I have no children.”

When Rivka conceived, she noticed what seemed like a war going on inside of her. When she prayed lidrosh, “to inquired” of the L-rd she was told that there were two nations within her. The root “darash” simply means to ask or question. This means that she did not spend as much time with HaShem, seeking answers as Yitzkhak had spent. The L-rd answered her in like manner. The word “darash” is broken down as follows; dalet “door”, resh “poverty” shin “worship”. When we take our poverty through the door of worship HaShem answers. Although Rivka did not spend as much time praying, HaShem answered her.

Yitzkhak had two children of promise, not much of a nation, you might think. Yet, HaShem is faithful and His promises are true. The two children became nations as promised. The yeledim (children) of Yitzkhak, Easv “Esau” and Ya’akov “Jacob”, became the nations of Edom “Turkey” and Yisrael as promised.

It amazes me how people can disregard the important things of life so they can comfort their flesh just a little, as in the story of Ya’akov and Esav. Later they come to regret their actions and wish they had not been so foolish. All of us fit this category, but some are more careless with their “birthright” than others. Compromise never pays off. When will we learn? Esav was counting on his inheritance. The birthright would never be seen, in this life anyway, but the inheritance was something tangible.
Yitzkhak’s sight was failing and he was about to die. He asked his favorite son, Esav to get him some fresh venison and make it his special way. While he was out hunting, Rachael (his mother) prepaired a goat the same way Esav did his venison, dressed Ya’akov in some of Esav’s hunting clothes and placed goat hair on his arms and neck (Esav was a hairy man) and brought him to Yitzkhak.

I have my own theory about this story. Esav had married a Cana’anite woman against his father’s will. Yitzkhak suspected something was wrong when the voice did not fit the smell and touch of Ya’akov. Why didn’t Yitzkhak recognize the younger son’s voice? A person who has lost his sight tends to increase his remaining senses. Unless Yitzkhak was getting to be hard of hearing as well Ya’akov could never have succeeaded. I believe Yitzkhak was conspiring with Rachael and Ya’akov to transfer the inheritance to the younger son. If Yitzkhak could say that Ya’akov had tricked him then the older son would not be angry with Yitzkhak, his father and family peace could reign in Yitzkhak’s final days.

Esav was so angry, that he again married a Cana’anite woman. This rebellious nature of Esav is why HaShem chose Ya’akov to fulfill the promise to Avraham.
Ya’akov went to his father’s homeland to find a wife. He knew this was his father’s desire and the will of HaShem. While there, he demonstrated integrity and honor by working seven years for the woman of his dreams. Even after Levan cheated him by switching women on the night of the betrothal, Ya’akov was honorable. Then he worked another seven years for the bride of his choice and another seven years to build a flock for himself. Several times Lavan tried to cheat Ya’akov but HaShem was with him and caused him to prosper.

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