Numbers in [brackets] are the mitzva-count according to the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary.
First Aliya – First Aliya – 21 p’sukim – 25:19-26:5
This is the history of Yitzchak b. Avraham; Avraham fathered Yitzchak.
[SDT] Rashi quotes the Gemara that tells that when Yitzchak was born, scoffers said that Avraham and Sara, who were childless for so long, had found a baby and claimed it as theirs. Avraham invited the leaders of the nations, their wives and infants, and Sara was miraculously able to wet-nurse all the babies. (The Gemarapoints to the plural “banim” in 21:7.) Then the scoffers accepted that Sara bore Yitzchak, but chided Avraham that Avimelech was the father (since Yitzchak’s birth followed Sara’s abduction by Avimelech). Another miracle occurred and baby Yitzchak was the very image of his father Avraham, until the scoffers proclaimed,”Avraham sired Yitzchak”.
[SDT] Earlier, the Torah tells us of the generations of Yishmael b. Avraham. That seems to be in balance with the beginning of this sedra, which speaks of Yitzchak, except  the Torah makes a point that Yishmael is the son of Hagar the Egyptian, the maidservant of Sara. In other words, Yishmael was NOT the real To’l’dotof Avraham; and  To’l’dot (in the Yishmael context) is spelled without a vav, implying that something was missing. OTOH, To’l’dot of Yitzchak b. Avraham; it was Avraham who fathered Yitzchak. And the word To’l’dot is spelled with a vav.
Yitzchak is 40 years old when he marries Rivka (3 years after the Akeida). The Torah emphasizes Rivka’s family background.
After 20 years of childlessness (10 until Rivka was of child-bearing age plus an additional 10 years without a child), Yitzchak and Rivka pray to G-d. G-d hears their (actually his) prayer and Rivka becomes pregnant. She is having a “rough time” and goes to Shem b. Noach (who outlived Avraham, by the way) who tells herG-d’s message, that she will give birth to twins who will go in very different ways and become great adversaries.
[sdt] Commentaries say that Rivka was unaware that she was carrying twins; she thought the turmoil within her existed in a single individual – this had her very upset; she was somewhat calmed by the Divine message.
Another commentator suggests that Rivka knew she’d have twins but did not see the benefit of bringing a Yaakov into this world if it meant also having an Eisav. Think about this idea and its ramifications. Part of the reply to her question “why do I need this”, is that her conclusion was wrong.
Even though Yaakov was learning all of Torah in the womb, he still did not want to be there with Eisav. One must avoid a potentially bad influence of a colleague even in the greatest of yeshivot. (Imrei Shefer)
Eisav and Yaakov are born, Yaakov clutching the heel of Eisav. The boys grow and develop different personalities – Eisav is the hunter and outdoorsman; Yaakov, the mild, studious “tent-dweller”. Yitzchak loves Eisav; Rivka loves Yaakov.
The Baal HaTurim points out that the numeric value of the name YAAKOV = 10+70+100+2 = 182 is the same as that of MAL’ACH HA’ELOKIM (angel of G-d) = 40+30+1+20 (91) + 5+1+30+5+10+40 (91) = 182.
R. Auerbach z”l points out that YAAKOV (182) = 7 x 26 (i.e. a multiple – a significant multiple) of 26, the G’matriya of G-d’s Name. He adds that YITZCHAK = 10+90+8+100 = 208 = 8 x 26, and YOSEF = 10+6+60+80 = 156 = 6 x 26.
Interesting sequence, no?
Yaakov is preparing a lentil soup for his father. (Our sources tell us that this was the day of Avraham’s death; Yaakov was preparing the traditional mourner’s meal for Yitzchak.)
Eisav returns from the field in a state of exhaustion. He asks Yaakov for some of the food. In exchange for the food, Yaakov acquires the birthright, which is insignificant in Eisav’s eyes, but meaningful to Yaakov.
A famine hits the Land (like the one in Avraham’s time – this is one of the many similarities between the lives of Avraham and Yitzchak) and Yitzchak goes to Avimelech in Gerar. G-d appears to Yitzchak and reminds him that he must not leave the Land. G-d also repeats his promises of the Land and of the large nation thatwill descend from him.
[sdt] The Torah says that Yitzchak loved Eisav KI TZAYID B’FIV. The straightforward translation is that Eisav provided food from the hunt for his father to eat. On a drash level, another meaning is given to TZAYID, namely that Eisav deceived his father with religious questions, thus pretending to be interested in Yitzchak’sfaith.
[sdt] There are many different commentaries on these relationships. Note that Yitzchak’s love is based on Eisav’s providing food for him. Rivka’s love is unconditional. Pirkei Avot says that only an unconditional love will endure forever.
[sdt] The Gemara says that Eisav did not manifest his evil nature until Avraham died. This is part of the definition of Avraham being blessed BAKOL – with everything.
Second Aliya -7 p’sukim – 26:6-12
Yitzchak dwells in Gerar. (One of several 3-word p’sukim in the Torah.) Yitzchak and Rivka pose as brother and sister (as did Avraham and Sara, and for the same two reasons). After a while Avimelech discovers that they are actually husband and wife and complains to Yitzchak about the deception. Avimelech orders his peopleto leave Yitzchak and Rivka alone. Yitzchak and family flourish in Gerar and G-d blesses them.
Hey, catch this… (Don’t know what it means)
First famine that drove Avraham and Sara to Egypt, when Par’o discovers their true relationship, he sends then away. Second time, when they went to Gerar and said they were brother and sister, and then “discovered:, Avimelech gives them many things and invites them to stay. (Par’o had given Avraham great wealth, but itwas before he knew.) Yitzchak and Rivka also say they are siblings, but no one takes Rivka. When they are “found out”, they stick around.
Third Aliya – 10 p’sukim – 26:13-22
Yitzchak thrives in Gerar, which creates jealousy among the locals who fill in the wells that Yitzchak has dug. (There is great symbolism in the Torah’s account of the wells, their names, their failures, and then their successes.) Yitzchak is driven away from Gerar. A new well that Yitzchak digs is taken over by the shepherdsof Gerar, as is yet another well. Only the third well called Rehovot permits Yitzchak to live in relative peace.
(Some see this as a hidden reference to the first and second Temples, which fell, and the third which will stand forever. May we see it soon in our time.)
Gemara Brachot 56: Rabbi Chanina said, he who sees a well in a dream, he will see peace… Yitzchak’s servants dug and found a live spring, B’EIR MAYIM CHAYIM. This is immediately followed by the peace treaty between Avimelech and Yitzchak Avinu. Rabbi Natan continues in the same Gemara. He who sees a well in his dreamhas found Torah, as it says in Mishlei: He who finds me, finds life… an equation is made between G-d, Torah, and Life.
Fourth Aliya – 7 p’sukim – 26:23-29
Yitzchak sets himself up in Be’er Sheva. G-d appears to him and reiterates the promises for prosperity made to Avraham. Yitzchak builds an altar to G-d and continues to prosper. Avimelech, realizing that his own prosperity was due to the presence of Yitzchak, comes with a delegation to Yitzchak in order to enter into acovenant with him. (A not-rare experience throughout the genera tions – Jews are expelled from a country, which subsequently regrets its actions because of the decline they experienced without the Jews in their midst.)
[SDT] G-d appears to Yitzchak and identifies Himself as the G-d of your father Avraham. Baal HaTurim notes that G-d does not use His YUD-KAY-VAV-KAY name with Yitzchak, as He had done with Avraham and will do with Yaakov. That name is associated with Divine Mercy. Avraham and Yaakov went through dificult times, but theywere treated, so to speak, with an element of Mercy. Yitzchak’s trials and tribulations were without the MIDOT HARACHAMIM, without G-d’s mercy. This fits with Yitzchak’s traits of GEVURA, a certain extra strength of character that can withstand powerful trials.
Fifth Aliya – 33 p’sukim – 26:30-27:27
Yitzchak and Avimelech partake of a meal and exchange oaths. Be’er Sheva is reaffirmed as “the city of the Avot” by Yitzchak’s actions. Another example of the similarity between Yitzchak’s life and Avraham’s.
Eisav marries at 40 years of age – a (sub)conscious attempt to emulate his father. However wicked Eisav is, he is genuinely respectful and loving of his father. Eisav’s choice of a wife disgusts both Yitzchak and Rivka.
There’s that number 40 again. It represents a full unit of time. 40 days, 40 years. Either one.
Yitzchak is old and blind and calls to Eisav to prepare for him a special meal and then receive a special blessing. While Eisav is in the fields doing his father’s bidding, Rivka prepares Yaakov to receive the blessing instead of Eisav. She tells Yaakov to bring her two goats and she would prepare the dishes that Yitzchakloved. Yaakov hesitates for fear that Yitzchak will feel his smooth skin and realize that Yaakov has come to deceive him. Rivka dresses Yaakov in Eisav’s garments and places a goat- skin on his neck to give it a rough feel. She gives Yaakov the food to bring to his father.
Sixth Aliya – 23 p’sukim – 27:28-28:4
The blessing invoked by Yitzchak upon Yaakov, for bountiful produce and respected status among nations, has been borrowed by us to be recited on Motzaei Shabbat — “V’yitein L’cha Elokim…”
As Yitzchak finishes blessing Yaakov, Eisav returns from the hunt. He prepares food for his father and presents it to Yitzchak with a request (demand) of the blessing. Yitzchak trembles when he realizes that this is Eisav and that the bracha has been given to Yaakov. When Yitzchak explains to Eisav that Yaakov received(and rightly so) the blessing, Eisav bitterly cries out and asks his father for a blessing too.
[SDT] A fellow in my shul suggested the following to explain Yitzchak’s feeling of terrible dread when he discovered the Yaakov-Eisav switch. Yitzchak was mortified at the thought that he almost made a tremendous mistake by giving the Bracha to Eisav. Yitzchak realized his error, when the Rivka-Yaakov plan succeeded.
Yitzchak gives Eisav a blessing (not as exalted as Yaakov’s). Eisav determines to kill Yaakov for this, the second time he has taken something away from him.
Rivka hears of Eisav’s plans and encourages Yaakov to flee to Rivka’s hometown until Eisav’s wrath subsides. Rivka suggests to Yitzchak that he send Yaakov away to find a proper wife.
One commentary suggests that Rivka did not want to tell Yitzchak about Eisav’s intentions, lest it distress the ailing and aging Yitzchak too much. Instead, she suggests a positive motive for Yaakov’s leaving.
Yitzchak calls for Yaakov and gives him another blessing and sends him off to Padan Aram to find a wife among Rivka’s family. He gives Yaakov “the blessing of Avraham”, thus providing for the continuity of the Chain that becomes Judaism.
Seventh Aliya – 5 p’sukim – 28:5-9
Eisav sees that their father has sent Yaakov to Padan Aram to find a wife, because he does not want him to take a Canaanite wife. Yaakov goes on his way and Eisav takes as another wife, the daughter of Yishmael.
And Eisav takes Machalat b. Yishmael…
Talmud Yerushalmi exclaims that this is Bosmat, and asks why her name was changed. The astonishing answer is that all Eisav’s sins were forgiven when he took a wife intended to please his parents. The Talmud generalizes and gives this as the source that the sins of a CHATAN (and KALLA) are forgiven when they marry. Strangesource for an important idea.
21 p’sukim -Mal’achi 1:1-2:7
21 is the optimal number of p’sukim for a Haftara, paralleling the Torah reading with 7 people called to the Torah and a minimum of three p’sukim for each Aliya. As such, a 21-pasuk Haftara represents Kri’at HaTorah, which it replaced during some dark periods of Jewish History when Torah reading was forbidden to us, courtesyof the Catholic Church. Not all Haftaras have 21 p’sukim. But many do. Or some number close to it.
The word MAL’ACHI, my messenger, appears nowhere else in Tanach. Commentators are not sure whether it is the name of a prophet or a nickname indicating his role of paving the way for Nechemia and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. Some claim that Mal’achi is Ezra HaSofer.
The prophet draws contrasts between Israel and the descendants of Eisav, hence the choice of this portion as the Haftara of To’l’dot. He stresses personal belief in G-d and emphasizes mercy and faith. He speaks of the proper way of life and of problems that must be faced repeatedly. The prophet warns the people to showproper honor to G-d. He also speaks of the Kohanim as being the appropriate teachers of the people.
If one reads only the Written text of the Torah, it is possible to draw a sympathetic picture of dear, misunderstood, uncle Eisav, and maybe, a distorted view of Yaakov too. Read the Haftara for the clear statements made by the prophet, in G-d’s name, which leave no doubt as to what’s what.