The name of this week’s Parashah (Torah portion) is “Toldot,” and you will find it in the Book of Genesis 25:19-28:9. Toldot literally means “generations” although the word is often used to express the idea of “history” Perhaps the best translation (or at least my favorite) is “generations come and go”.
Traditionally many scholars have considered this parashah to be about our second national patriarch, Isaac. Isaac had perhaps the hardest patriarchal task; it is never easy to be the second leader. In many ways, Isaac lived in both his father’s shadow and also that of his son’s.
From what the text tells us Isaac was the quietest of the three Patriarchs. For many, he is the “bridge” connecting the founder, Abraham, with Jacob.
This section, however, is also very much about Isaac’s wife, Rebecca. Perhaps no character in Hebrew scripture is quite as conflicted as Rebecca. On the one hand, the text describes her as strong and even domineering. Yet, on the other hand, she takes no action in her quest to have children. It is Isaac, who in his quiet way, assures Israel’s continuity.
Perhaps we best see this bifurcation of strength and weakness, of independence and dependence in 25:22. In this verse in reference to her very hard pregnancy Rebecca cries out to G’d: “Im-ken, lamah zeh anochi/If so, why do I exist? In reality, the Hebrew is pregnant with meanings. Does the word “zeh,” meaning “this,” refer to her pregnancy, to existence, or to her lot in life? Why does she use the word ‘anochi’ for “I” rather than the more simple word for I “ani”? (Anochi is a word that has an almost divine connotation.) What subliminal message is she expressing with the change of pronoun?
Is the text teaching us that for Isaac and Rebecca to be in a relationship with each other and with G-d they first had to come to know themselves? Both Rebecca and Isaac shared the need to learn how to stand up for themselves, to go beyond their parents and to create a relationship that matched their reality.
Our second patriarch and matriarch teach us that that to journey through life successfully, we must first have the confidence and the wisdom to be quiet enough to hear our own voices, to state what we believe, and to be willing to accept the consequences of doing what we believe to be right. To do so is to answer the question first posed by Rabbi Hillel. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me; if I am only for myself, then what am I, and if not now, then when? No easy task, but an important lesson about life and the essence or what it means to pass on life to the next generation. What do you think?
Youtubes of the week:
The musical work of Yehoram Gaon, songs in Ladino.
Los Bilbilcos: (The nightingales):
Cuando el rey Nimrod: (When King Nimrod):
Avre tu puerto cerrada (Open your closed gates):