This week’s parsha is Toledot (Generations). The parsha deals with the birth and sibling rivalry of Esau and Jacob- the twin sons of Rebecca and Isaac. Those babies were fighting even before they were born, to the point that Rebecca asked God what was going on with her pregnancy.
Esau loved being outside and hunting while Jacob stayed home, cooked, and according to the commentaries learned Torah. Esau traded his “birthright” for a bowl of Jacob’s soup – showing Esau’s impatience and disregard for tradition, and also showing Jacob’s desire to take advantage of his brother. The climax of the story is Rebecca and Jacob’s deception of Isaac. Rebecca convinces Jacob to masquerade as his brother in order to fool Isaac into giving Jacob the special blessing for the first born.
The story introduces all kinds of questions and puts flawed family dynamics into relief. Why did Isaac favour Esau while Rebecca favoured Jacob? Why did Rebecca fool Isaac instead of talking to him? Was Isaac really taken in by Jacob’s deception? Maybe he suspected the truth but realized that Jacob was more suited to the blessing. Did the two brothers end up with the fates that most suited them in the long run? Esau would be a man of the field and Jacob would become the leader of the nation of Israel.
What seems to hold true is that poor family dynamics and communication skills certainly continued from generation to generation. We see that this deception had repercussions that continued and echoed in the lives of our ancestors. Jacob fooled Esau and was fooled in turn by Lavan.
art by Laya Crust
Although Jacob was promised Rachel as a wife he was presented with Leah. Lavan justified himself by slyly announcing, “It is not done in our place to give the younger before the elder…” (Genesis 29:26) The favouritism Isaac and Rebecca showed each of their sons was echoed in the favouritism Jacob showed Joseph, favouring him above his brothers. The sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau was repeated in the rivalry between Jacob’s twelve sons. Jacob’s sons lied to him as he had lied to Isaac.
The picture above shows the “family dynamics. The blind, deceived Isaac is blessing his son Jacob. Rebecca is delaying Esau from coming in until the blessing is complete. When Rebecca was pregnant Gd had told her that “the elder shall serve the younger”. She wanted to ensure that the prophecy came true.
Can we learn anything from this? There are many, many lessons. One is that hurt and dishonesty don’t disappear. They continue to spread like dust in the wind. The climactic story of the Isaac-Rebecca nuclear family was Rebecca and Jacob’s deception. It tore the family apart, causing Jacob to leave for many, many years. The two brothers never really solved their differences. Esau’s marriages never satisfied his parents. Deception and white lies were an undercurrent in Jacob’s own home.
I believe Jacob would have been the leader of our nation even without the ruse in today’s parsha. Without the ruse honesty and communication may have become a more utilised tool in our world.
If you would like the recipe for this fabulous Red Lentil Soup you can find it at an earlier post of mine:https://layacrust.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/toledot-red-lentil-stew/
Scroll down past the text and the ingredients are all listed.
Have a wonderful (and deception free) Shabbat.
Let’s pray for more peace and less vitriol!
Shabbat Shalom, Laya