Turn of Events

motzei Shabbos: parashas Toldos 5782

Overall, Isaac must have recognized that he who received the blessing of the firstborn, was meant to receive that blessing, when he said, “he shall be blessed,” referring to Jacob, who used deceit to obtain the blessing. The gist of the meaning of Isaac’s words is “he shall remain blessed.” Did Isaac have an epiphany at that moment, that compelled him to acknowledge that Jacob was the one who was divinely meant to receive the blessing? Consider that the midrash says that when Jacob, who was wearing goat pelts, drew near to Isaac to receive the blessing, Isaac smelled the perfume of Gan Eden ((Garden of Eden).

The midrash further explains that when Esau entered Isaac’s tent, shortly after Jacob who received the blessing left, “Isaac trembled very exceedingly,” because he “saw” Gehenna opened up beneath Esau. In the plain sense of the verse, Isaac trembled, when he realized, he had already given the blessing away to Jacob. Yet, the drift of the midrash may be understood to imply that in an instant, Isaac realized that Esau was not worthy of receiving the blessings because his character did not reflect the values deemed appropriate for the next patriarch of the family.

The Ramban (Nachmanides) concedes that Isaac knew through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) that indeed the blessing rested upon Jacob when given to him. So, briefly put, “it was meant to be.” Therefore, Isaac accepted the turn of events as hasgacha peratis (divine guidance). For, unbenownst to Isaac, Rebecca had previously recevied a prophecy from H’Shem, that “the older would serve the younger” (Genesis ). In other words, that Esau would serve Jacob. And, so, she felt it necessary to make sure this outcome would take effect, by insisting that Jacob listen to her words, when she told him to pretend to be Esau, in order to obtain the blessing of the firstborn.

Wisdom of the Ages

shiur for parashas Toldos 5782

“Isaac dug anew the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death; and he gave them the same names that his father had given them.” – Genesis 26:18, JPS 1985 Tanach

The passing on of traditions from generation to generation, ad infinitum, until Malchus Elokim (the Kingdom of G-d), takes a precedent in our lives, beyond compare, ushering in the Messianic Age. These are the wells of wisdom re-dug, figuratively speaking, in every generation, from where the living waters may be drawn every day, as a fresh supply of life-sustaining spiritual truths.

Each pious individual of the succeeding generations will – H’Shem willing – make an effort like Isaac “to return and dig to the aspect of ‘a well of living water’ through many types of intelligences and great and concealed counsels” (Me’or Einayim, sefaria.org). Thus, Isaac, who re-dug his father Abraham’s wells, that had been stopped up by the Philistines, serves as an example, on a symbolic level for us.

Sins of the Heels

parashas Toldos 5782

“And the children struggled within her.” – Genesis 25:22, JPS 1917 Tanach

Esau was the firstborn, while Jacob was born grasping Esau’s heel. This is how Jacob received his name, Yaakov, meaning heel, or supplanter, because, eventually, he supplanted the rights of the firstborn. Additionally, “Jacob’s holding on to the heel of Esau may symbolize those values that Esau would symbolically stamp his foot on, those values would be the very ones Jacob would cherish” (Akeidat Yitzchak 23:1:10, sefaria.org).

According to Akeidat Yitzchak, Esau would tread upon the very values that Jacob cherished, the values that Jacob emulated in his father Isaac, the same values of Abraham. Jacob was destined to supplant Esau in regard to the rights of the firstborn, so that the legacy of Abraham, replete with the qualities of chesed (kindness), gevurah (moral restraint), and tiferes (harmony) would be continued.

Another rendering of the phrase, “sins of the heels,” is in reference to the pasuk (verse), “Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my supplanters [heels] compasseth me about” (Psalm 49:6, JPS), concerning King David’s fear that the sins of his heels, those that most people disregard, i.e., “trample upon,” would prevent him from entering Olam Haba (the World-to-Come). How much more so, should we also be concerned for the sins that we might otherwise overlook, without doing teshuvah (repentance) or working towards self-improvement in those areas of our lives.

Wisdom Like Water

parashas Toldos 5781

“And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham.”

– Genesis 26:18, JPS 1917 Tanach

Meor Eynayim explains, that these wells are symbolic of G-d’s wisdom that flowed during the lifetime of Abraham; yet, after his death, his wells were stopped up by the Philistines, representative of the powers of darkness and ignorance, inasmuch that they also impeded the spread of this wisdom (Meor Einayim, Toldos 19; sefaria.org). Symbolically, when Isaac redug the wells of his father, Abraham, he also reopened the flow of divine wisdom into the world.

The wellsprings of wisdom, must be dug within ourselves, until we reach the place where the source of the wisdom flows. This is the essence of the teaching from Meor Einayim. In reference to the verse, “they have forsaken me, the source of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13), he explains that “Blessed G-d is the source from whom comes the flow of life-force to all living things in all manners” (Meor Einayim, Toldos 18; sefaria.org).

Thus, the source of life continually flows from G-d; yet, as the result of sin, we cause a blockage of that source, and are likened to “broken cisterns.” Consequently, we are unable to connect to our “upper root,” the source above us that nourishes our soul. Additionally, our own ignorance compels us to search elsewhere in this world for the truth; yet, here is much spiritual malaise as the result of sin in this world. Our own path should be to turn from the the darkness, towards the light, so that our souls may be renewed with G-d’s wisdom.

Tradition teaches that preceding the time of Moshiach (Messiah), there will be a decline in spiritual understanding, as a result of sinking to “the fiftieth level of impurity.” However, at the beginning of his reign, “it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:8). Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, explains that in the future, within Jerusalem, a newfound well that will arise of its own accord, will water all of the surroundings. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L-RD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).