Shalom y’all and welcome to this week’s edition of Better Know a Parsha!
First of all, would like to apologies for the tardiness of this week’s episode. Last week was crazy hectic at work (Wrote a large two-part story on mental health funding in Southeast Michigan if you’d like to check it out) and then weekend travel to visit my sister prevented me from finishing up. Anyway, on to the Parsha!
This week we’re reading Toldot: The fightin’ story of brotherly “love”!
Shoutout to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, which happens to be my roommate’s hometown and tends to show about as much brotherly love as our main characters in this parsha.
But I digress. This week is another action-packed affair, so let’s get going.
The parsha opens with Rebecca having trouble conceiving (never heard that one before, right?) but she and Isaac pray really hard.
And lo and behold, after 20 years she becomes pregnant.
But Rebecca’s pregnancy was no joy ride (not that I’m implying any pregnancy is a joy ride, but her’s was especially rough).
God tells Rebecca that the reason she’s in so much pain is that she has two children—who will become two nations—struggling insider her.
Shortly thereafter, Rebecca gives birth to twin boys. The first to come out is a hairy ginger named Esau (Eisav in Hebrew).
To be fair though, Esau was not your typical ginger. This was a man’s man. He was a hunter, he chased women, he was none to bright, probably the closest thing the Bible gives us to this guy:
The second-born son comes out clutching Esau’s heel! The kid wouldn’t let go.
Because he was holding the heel (in Hebrew ah-kev) his parents named him Jacob (Hebrew name: Yaakov). Jacob was much more of a quiet type than his brother. He preferred reading and studying rather than going out and hunting.
So one day Esau comes back from the fields and is famished.
Jacob is chillin’ and cookin’ some stew, so he tells Esau he’ll give him some, if Esau gives him his birthright as the firstborn.
Esau accepts and eats the stew and probably forgets the whole thing ever happened
Now we find out there’s another famine in Canaan so Isaac sets off for Egypt with his fam (wait, this sounds familiar). He doesn’t quite make it there because got tells him to chill in a place called Gerar. Then Isaac pulls an Abraham and tells everyone Rebecca is his sister.
As you might guess, people want to sleep with Rebecca, this time the king intervenes, and of course instead of getting mad gives Isaac lots of gifts.
Isaac becomes extremely wealthy, the crops grow well for him, and he starts re-digging some of his dad’s wells.
Eventually, the locals become envious and ask him to leave, which he does rather graciously.
At this point we learn Esau has taken a couple of wives for himself that his parents are not thrilled about because they were pretty into the idol worship.
Now this is where things get good. Isaac tells Esau he wants to bless him, but first he should go to the field and hunt for some game for him to eat.
So Esau goes off to do as his father asked.
Rebecca had overheard the conversation and told Jacob to pull a fast one on his old man—who was practically blind at this point—by dressing in Esau’s clothes in order to steal his older brother’s blessing.
Jacob gets the clothes while Rebecca prepares some meat. She also took hairy goatskin and put it on Jacob’s arms and neck so he’d feel more “rough” like his older brother.
Jacob comes to his father who is at first a little dubious that he was able to hunt and prepare the meat so quickly, but Jacob assures him that God helped him out. Isaac feels the goat skins over his hands and says that the “voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau.”
Isaac checks with Jacob one more time to make sure he’s really Esau.
So Isaac eats the food and then blesses Jacob with all his might. He asks God to give him the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth. He tells Jacob that nations shall serve him and kingdoms bow before him.
“You shall be a master over your brothers and your mother’s sons shall bow down to you. Those who fuse you shall be cursed and those who bless you shall be blessed.”
Jacob thanks his dad very much for the blessing and gets out of there because he knows Esau will be coming back soon.
When Esau returns, he cooks his dad his meal and brings it to him. Isaac realizes he gave the blessing to the wrong son and is very upset, but tells Esau there isn’t much he can do about it. He already told Jacob that he’d be a master over his brothers.
So he gives Esau a much less cool blessing, telling him he will live by the sword. Esau is righteously angry with Jacob.
Neither Isaac nor Rebecca want to see any fratricide, so they send Jacob away to find a wife back in Padan Aram—where Abraham, Sarah and Rebecca were all born. Jacob took their advice and went off on his way.
And here the parsha ends. It’s a lot of narrative! Stay tuned next week for the next edition of As the Torah Turns.
Happy mid-week learning!