Weekly Parashah

Shabbat Toldot


Marc Chagall
Ten Commandments

November 10, 2018: Parashah Chayei Sarah
Torah: (Bereishit) Genesis 25:19 – 28:9
Halftorah: Malachi 1:1 — 2:7

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— Parashat Toldot — “Generations"

Torah: (Bereishit) Genesis 25:19 – 28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1 — 2:7


"You search the Scriptures because you think in them you have eternal life. It is these that bear witness of Me [Yeshua]"  John 5:39


This Parashah talks about the life of Yitzchak, but we find few details about it. Yitzchak seems to be but a bridge between his father Avraham and his son Ya'akov. That may be because Yitzchak, even though he experienced firsthand Yehovah's deliverance and the ultimate symbolism of the atonement in the Akeidah, was an earthly man who put the pleasures of the flesh ahead of God's commandments. In this regard he failed God's test. But, towards the end of his life, the Torah notes that he “trembled violently” (Genesis 27:33) when he realized that he was being corrected right in the moment of his disobedience.

The Torah notes that the matriarchs Sarah, Rivkah, and Rachel were barren. The sages explained that their experiences proved that the emergence of the nation of Israel was a miracle, for each new generation was a gift from God to a mother who could not have given birth naturally. Just as we have seen as a miracle the birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948, that, too, was a gift from God.

To Rivkah, Yehovah conveys that she will have twins and that the unborn infants represent two nations and two conflicting ideologies — Edom and Israel — and that the elder will serve the younger. This prophecy explains her love for Ya'akov and her later actions to obey God's plan in spite of Yitzchak's desire to bless Esau. The discernment of right or wrong fell on Rivkah who guided Ya'akov to align with God's plan to establish the Jewish nation as promised to Avraham in spite of Yitzchak's disobedience. This is to show - a seemingly paradox - that even though the future is known by God, it is still up to us to obey and perform, or not to obey, God's commandments.

Avraham became the pillar of our faith because he "... obeyed My voice, and kept My charge (mishmeret), My commandments (mitzvoth), My regulation (chukot), and My Torah” says God (Genesis 26:5). Interesting to note that this is the first instance where the word “Torah” appears, long before it was associated with the set of commandments given to Moshe at Mount Sinai. Also note the different Hebrew words used for “charge,” “commandments” and “regulation,” thus this word “Torah” must mean much more than the simple word “law,” as translated in our English Bibles. It is rather a “teaching” that encompasses the physical as well as the spiritual realm, a God given instruction that must always be viewed in context of the other charges, commandments and regulations given. Was Rivkah “Torah observant”? By all means yes, even though this was long before the written Torah was given to Moshe. She was obeying God's charge for establishing the Jewish nation.

We should all take her example and be as such “Torah observant” and enter into the good works that God established for us from the eternity past (please read Ephesians 2:10).

In verse 27 of chapter 25, we come to an event which will set the stage for bringing into fruition the prophecy given to Rivkah. We do not know how old are the boys at this moment, but we see that Esau is a man of the field, a hunter, and Ya'akov is characterized as a wholesome man, abiding in tents. Esau, coming from a hunting expedition and being very hungry, sells his birthright for a lentil stew which Ya'akov cooked.

In the ancient world the privileges of the birthright were purely spiritual. The first born was the head of the clan and was the one who was supposed to act as the priest and to serve God. Esau's behavior as a man of the field was hardly in line with the expectations of a firstborn, therefore, “selling” his birthright, which was of no value to him, must be seen in the context of God reaffirming His plan that the emerging nation of Israel should be holy. Most of the times we were led to believe that Ya'akov was a conniving man, a supplanter (such is the view of the world about the Jews), who wanted to take advantage of his brother in a weak moment. But a true student of the Bible would discover otherwise. Rivkah and Ya'akov were obeying God's commandment in forming the nation that would carry God's message to mankind. The Brit Chadashah in Hebrews 12 parallels this incident with the emerging of the “Ekklesia,” the body of believers, in which should be “no immoral or godless person like Esau who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” With this incident God is showing us the principle for the foundations of both - the nation of Israel and the Ekklesia - holiness.

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