Toldos – Rishon

Double Your Pleasure

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

This parsha chronicles the life of Yitzchak, Avraham’s son. Yitzchak married Rivka when he was 40 years old. They didn’t have any children so he prayed for her and G-d answered. Rivka became pregnant, but she had a very tough time of things. She inquired of G-d (through Noah’s son Shem, who was a prophet) as to why this was happening. G-d replied that she was carrying twins, who would father two nations. These nations would conflict, but the older brother would ultimately serve the younger.

Rivka gave birth when Yitzchak was 60 years old. The older son was born rather hairy; they named him Eisav (Esau), meaning that he was born complete. The younger brother was grasping the elder’s heel; they named him Yaakov (Jacob), from the word for heel.

Eisav grew up the outdoorsy type, skilled in hunting and trapping; Yitzchak favored Eisav. Yaakov was a scholarly type; Rivka favored him. (She had “inside information” from the prophesy that Yaakov was G-d’s chosen one.) One time, Eisav came back from the fields absolutely famished. Yaakov was making a stew and Eisav asked for some. Yaakov agreed to trade Eisav the stew for his birthright as the first-born son. Eisav said, “What good will my birthright do me if I die?” So Eisav made the trade, he ate up, and he despised the birthright that he gave away so easily. In this way, Yaakov became the primary heir. (When Eisav asked for stew, he called it “that red stuff.” He and his descendants are called Edom from the word for red.)

A famine eventually struck the land, so Yitzchak took his family to Gerar. G-d had told Yitzchak not to go to Egypt; since he had been bound as a sacrifice to G-d, Yitzchak was “sanctified” and he never left the boundaries of the land of Israel (see Rashi on 26:2). G-d reiterated His promise to make Yitzchak’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and to grant them the land of Israel, all because Avraham conscientiously kept all of G-d’s laws.

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