Toledot Torah Portion

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

In this portion we meet Jacob as the third forefather. his personality will teach us great deal about our own survival. he will teach us that in worshiping G‑d we are to transcend beyond the natural movement of our feelings, emotions and even knowledgeable consciousness.

In this portion, we are facing the birth of Jacob and birth in general. Toldot always comes in the beginning of the Hebrew month of KISLEV, the month of the Hanukkah festival, as if it is suggesting us, or urging us to focus on our ability to form light even in the darkest places.

And here in this portion, the third forefather Jacob, who is also the figure on which the nation of Israel is called upon, who is also the represent of the Tiferet attribute in the tree of life is coming. Jacob is about to be born and raise in a harsh reality, a reality on which he would need to fight and confront an evil brother, Esau, his twin. Or as we learned – every figure or a character in the biblical story is a force within our self – so we are about to face two opposite sides inside ourselves. Or those are about to be revealed to us.

But first, the portion begins in "And these are the offspring of Isaac, the son of Abraham; Abraham fathered Isaac." So a requested question here regarding this verse is: If Isaac has already been identified as the son of Abraham, why does the verse repeat again the fact that Abraham fathered Isaac?

Well, so we know that the Jewish tradition gives a great deal of importance to the forefather's figures as they create the initial physical format of the Jewish nation, as well as the metaphysical spiritual core of abundance that raised the monotheistic belief. 'Issac the son of Abraham' is to say that Issac is counted as the legit heritage offspring to Abraham – which as we know, is the preliminary figure that is connected and bound to G-d service.

Also as we learned in Chayei Sarah portion, the Divine service of Abraham centered on the attributes of CHESSED (kindness and love), while the Divine service of Yitzchak, his son centered on the attributes of GEVURAH (might and fear). Our sages tell us that the three fathers of the Jewish nation, Abraham, Yitzchak and Jacob, embodied the three attributes:

  • The first, Abraham, is the Chessed, which stands for benevolence kindness, grace

  • The second, Yitzchak is the Gevurah, which stands for severity and holding back

  • And the third, Jacob is Tiferet, which stands for truth and mercy

Abraham's CHESSED was exemplified by his exceptional love of G‑d, his charity, his campaigning on behalf of the condemned, and his lifelong effort to enlighten his fellow man. Yitzchak however, the Gevurah was expressed in his great awe of G‑d and his challenging self-discipline. Now, as we will learn in this portion, Jacob's – The Tiferet, had in him the capacity for harmony, mercy and truth. He has within him the ability to integrate these two diverse traits of his ancestors into a cohesive whole.

In Jacob, the polar drives of Chessed and Gevurah were synergized in an all-embracing, all-enduring character, a character with the consistency and persistence that are the hallmarks of truth. But what is this TRUTH that Jacob defines and signifies?

So we know that in the Biblical story in the book of Bereshit, we have the history of Noah and a history of heaven and earth and now we are confronted with the history of Yitzchak. Which implies or brings to the table, interestingly, not the past or the history of Yitzchak but rather the story of his future legacy. Until now in the biblical story, Yitzchak's life belonged or were a build-up of Abraham's doings and Abraham’s life events. He was, in a way, only a shadow of his father’s path and therefore was formulated and recognized as the continence to the family tree, only in compresence to his father. Abraham.

In the biblical story up until now, Abraham was the center of gravity. He was the actual hero of the story, he was the ultimate believer and the definition of faithful servant to G-d, everything surrounded him, his life story, his relationship with his wives and his children, while his young son - Isaac, was considered and referred to only through the context of his father's life-events and actions.

Yitzhak as we said in the previous portion of CHAYEI SARAH, was a figure that signifies awe and fear of the divine. Terrified by the divine experience that shaped his character and behavior, he was the ultimate ‘God fearing’ man, and hence represent Gevura attribute. Rivka his wife on the other hand, who did not suffer the events of the nomadic experience of the Akeida, is his ‘Chessed’ companion, the one that completes him, and therefore is more direct in terms of her relationship with G-d. She is not congested by the memory of the horror experience of the Akeida and comes forth as a more subtle character, but such, that can actually absorb her husband’s fearful approach towards life.

This strong and fearless woman Rivka, is demanding to know the divine ways, demanding to know why her children are fighting inside her, and also as we will see in this portion, she, in a way, is the one that demanding that Isaac’s blessings will go to no other than Jacob. The younger brother. With the two very different twins in her belly, Rivka represents the part in us that has a conscious acknowledgment of opposing forces inside ourselves. Her conscious recognition of the multitude of faces expressed in the proclamation of "two gentiles in your belly" is providing us with an extremely-important-internal-understanding of our mortal characteristics. As Rivka is a force within us, we are now can acknowledge the differences we face within ourselves in regards to our inner souls opposite components. The one is called Jacob and the other Esau.

Aware and conscious of the contrasts within our personality represented by those two twins, which are multifaceted being while one is shadowing the other. And so now we are ready to start a somewhat more complex inner journey of understanding ourselves. And every understanding in regards to two contrasts usually starts with hostility between them. The initial hostility between Esau and Jacob inside their mother's womb, is archetypal, and also forms the basis of a future sibling relationship set before their birth.

Again, try and remember to consider the fact that those two twins are inner forces within us, fighting to get there recognition. Each of them is trying to win and control the other. We can find an earlier hostility motif in the biblical story already in Bereshit Portion, with Cain and Abel. There, the hostility lies close to the surface, than emerges and bursts with the first provocation that matches the wild and undomesticated human nature – which is murderous violence in the case of Cain and Abel, and another hostility motif later on, that can be called more subtle, in the case of Ishmael and Isaac and then in Jacob and Esau.

Now, remember the order of evolution. We have here three sets of two brothers, each comes in a more subtle form to the existing reality as the story progresses, but yet also in the deeper level, if those started as an outside forces now they reappear as a more internal condition in our self-recognition. As we said, the hostility that may have started with Cain and Hevel, we also find in the two brothers Yitzchak and Ishmael.

To be honest, in general, in many respects, the Torah's account of Isaac's family reads like a replay of Abraham's story. Many years of childlessness are followed by the birth of two sons - the elder one wicked and the younger one righteous. Yitzchak favors the elder son, Esau, much as Abraham is sympathetic toward his elder son, Ishmael, while Rivka like Sarah perseveres in her efforts to ensure that the younger, righteous son is recognized as the true heir and the sole progenitor of the "great nation" which G‑d promised to establish from their seed.

There is, however, a significant difference between the two sets of brothers. Ishmael and Yitzchak, Esau and Jacob. Ishmael and Isaac were born of two different mothers: Ishmael was the son of Hagar, a former Egyptian princess still attached to her pagan ways, while Isaac was the son of the righteous Sarah. Furthermore, Ishmael was born when Abraham was still Abram and still uncircumcised, and can be said to belong to his father's imperfect past, while Isaac was conceived after Abraham had attained the perfection signified by his name change and circumcision. On the other hand, Esau and Jacob were twins, born of the same righteous mother and raised in the same holy environment.

Their father, Yitzchak, who was circumcised on the eighth day of his life, and, who never set foot outside of the Holy Land, unlike his father, had no idolatrous past and no "pre-Isaac" period in his life. So where did Esau's "evil genes" come from? And what do those brothers – in both very different formats of the story come to teach us? Even more puzzling is the fact that Esau's wickedness seems predestined from the womb. If Esau had turned bad later in life, we might point this to the fact that every man is given absolute freedom of choice to be righteous or wicked. But how are we to explain Esau's gravitation towards evil even before he was born?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the fact that Esau was naturally inclined toward idolatry was not, in and of itself, a negative thing. It meant that his ordained mission in life was the conquest of evil rather than the cultivation of good. Its written in the scriptures that Isaac loved Esau because he was a hunter. The fact E was a hunter appealed to Isaac who was the root of G. but it was a conditioned love. And Rebecca loves Jacob – here is the love of a mother without any explanation or justification- here is an unconditional love. An interesting thing here, is that over-all we can see, that the fathers provided with the extended or the general driven synchronization force towards the divine evolution in its more natural way for the continuity of their seed, while the mothers engaged in directing the divine promise toward its initial goal - to establish a sacred and sanctified heritage of ultimate believers, devoted people that would continue a legacy of substantial G-dly faith.

Both mothers identified spirituality within their children from a young age. And they acted upon it with a covered, refined and yet very much essential authoritative will that was influenced and observed with Holy Spirit – the mothers were the ones responsible for the establishment of their heritage. While the father’s in a very general assumption preferred as we saw the elders, which were also the wicked and evil. So the Mothers gave the tone for the right direction, as if they were more aligned and aware of the undercurrent, sublime G-dly will for the continuance of the divine heritage promised to their husbands and act upon it in several occasions.

Now let us go to JACOB

As a twin, Jacob was in a constant need to develop his personality and character while dealing with himself, his parents, but also with accepting his own shadow - Esau. Described as an innocent man that is seated in tents, humble and wise, an introvert that is preserving his parent’s legacy, Jacob is compared to Esau his brother, who was wicked, a hunter, the man of the filed, an extrovert. But if we look closer and deeper into Jacob's case of character, we will notice that he was not a very "innocent" man at all… or, at least not in the conventional meaning of the word.

From the biblical story, Jacob is portrayed as a man of great trickery.

Naturally, as being the son of his mother he did manage to inherit and receive some of her family’s un-polished behaviors and capabilities such as the ability of deception, the fraud and the ability to con. In Jacob behavior, we recognize lot of the inner manifestations of the snake's abilities. He is to twist, to interweave and to plot his misfortune circumstances of reality to gain the blessings from his father and later on to gain his wives from his wicked uncle. Jacob is getting his way with everything using somewhat questionable ways each time.

In accordance, indeed, in the course of his life's story, his personality develops and expands on its virtues and shortcomings, on the light and shadow found within it. And so we must learn from Jacob – out of his trickery character - the truth about the truth. And the truth is that the truth forms within it, many paths of trickery illusions, and numerous ways of deceit which unfortunately as we see in the story, are necessary in order to, sometimes, implement the desired outcomes - even the divine desired outcomes from reality.

The truth is, that we have within us the same dichotomy, the same inner light and shadow – both equally important to our progress and especially when engaging in spiritual awareness.

Because as humans, when we wise enough to recognize within ourselves the shadows, or the manipulations of and the tricks of the shadow side inside us, we could and would be able also to overcome them. This crazy almost unbelievable truth we learn from Jacob.

Rivka's pregnancy and the story of the two brothers symbolize our inner dichotomy; it symbolizes the opposing powers within us, each fighting for its existence, and our need to prioritize the innocent and learned side of us over the wicked and arrogant side. Jacob Holds inside him opposite forces. He is a courageous coward, he is innocent and yet very sophisticated, honest yet devious, vulnerable but also rude. Through Jacob we are confronted with our pragmatic nature in the face of spiritual indignation.

In the portions to come – we will discover that those particular characteristics Jacob had, holds within them a great power for survival. As we will see Jacob is the one that was able to fight with the heavenly domain – with the angel and win.

This story of Jacob is welcoming us to identify those opposite forces within ourselves. It teaches us we must learn to serve G-d with both domains. We are to conquest the evil and cultivate the good. As both are pragmatically beneficial to us. This story is here to formulate a continuation to Abraham and Isaac’s characteristics, but from the inside. We are to establish a form of being that serve G-d with the Love and kindness (Abraham) with the fear and might (Issac) and with the mercy and complicated truth of (Jacob) together. These are incompatible emotions. Love means drawing near; fear is more of a distance and separation.

And truth as we can see is extremely tricky. However, in worship of G‑d we are to transcend beyond the natural movement of our feelings, emotions and even knowledgeable consciousness. This week try to investigate Jacob and Eisav inside of you, how do they make you feel, whom do you drown to, what would be the right approach towards them. How can you cultivate in a pragmatic way this fusion of forces within you.

We can and must fuse these three physically and spiritually.

To find out more about this week's portion watch the Torah lesson.

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