Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9)

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Meaning of the Torah portion name

The portion is named Toldot, literally "the descendants", because it begins with the tale of the descendants of Isaac.
This week's portion begins with the story of the birth of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Esau. Rebecca is barren, and Isaac prays to God for her to have a child. During the pregnancy, the children struggled within her, and she received a prophecy telling her that she is carrying two nations, and the older will serve the younger. The first of the twins to be born is Esau, and after him, holding on to his heal, Jacob is born. The children grow up and Esau is a man of the field while Jacob is a quiet tent-dweller.

We are told of a day when Jacob made stew. The hungry Esau returned from the field, and Jacob agreed to give him some of the stew in return for Esau's birthright as first born.

A famine comes upon the Land of Canaan, and Isaac and Rebecca go to live in the Philistine city of Grar. Isaac tells the king, Abimelech, the Rebecca is his sister, for he fears that the locals will kill him because Rebecca is very beautiful. Abimelech discovers that Isaac and Rebecca are in fact married, and scolds Isaac for having created a situation where one of the people might have sinned. Isaac remains in Philistine territory and becomes very wealthy, and after a number of fights with Philistine shepherds over water, moves to Beer Sheba. Abimelech comes to visit him there and the two make a covenant between them.

Esau, by now forty years old, takes two Canaanite wives, a fact which upsets his parents very much. Isaac, now growing old, can no longer see well, and he calls Esau to him in order to bless him, asking that Esau go out to hut and then prepare savory food for him. While Esau is out, Rebecca sends Jaob in, dressed up as Esau, because she thinks that he is the one who is supposed to receive the blessing. Learning that the blessing has been stolen from him, Esau is furious and threatens to kill Jacob. Rebecca tells Jacob to go to her brother in Mesopotamia until Esau's anger abets, and Isaac joins and orders Jacob to marry one of his Mesopotamian cousins, because of his disapproval for Canaanite women.

Esau, realizing that his parents disapprove of his wives, goes to Ishmael and married one of his cousins, in addition to his Canaanite wives.

List of dates

Parashat Toldot is read in the Diaspora on:

29 November 2008
21 November 2009
06 November 2010


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