11/12/2015

Shabbat Toldot

Candles Friday 13th 4:20pm
Havdalah 14th 5:15pm

The main narrative this week is the struggle to win Isaac’s blessing. On the face of it Rivkah and Yaakov conspire to deceive Yitzchak so that instead of his blessing going to Esav, it goes to Yaakov. The story is full of hints that Yitzchak really does know that something is not as it should be. But the bigger question is why, when he realizes the deception, does he stand by it instead of retracting and re-issuing the blessing to Esav? Is this a matter of deception or rather of a struggle between human values and Divine (or physical versus cerebral)? In the end Yitchak comes to realize that there is a greater power and purpose.

On a purely physical level Isaac loves Esav as his first born and this love survives Esav’s rejection of many of Yitzchak’s values. Its like a parent’s love for a delinquent child. Esav might be a good leader of a band of brigands and thieves. But Yaakov clearly is a better leader for a tradition of reflection, self control and long term strategy. Indeed ironically Yitzchak here is the champion of physicality and Rivkah of the Divine and the spiritual (after all God has told her that Ya'akov, Jacob, is going to be the greater of the twins).

Everything the Torah has been telling us is about conflicted relationships, between peoples, husbands and wives and, bothers. And love is a crucial ingredient repeated as the core of the relationship between husbands and wives and children. But love is not the only criterion. It is as susceptible to deceit as is the word of God capable of being misunderstood. As ever the Torah advocates balance.