SEDRA - RABBI ARNOLD SAUNDERS

Toldot

THE sedra Toldot opens with childless couple Isaac and Rebecca praying for a child. Their prayers are answered and Rebecca gives birth to twins.

They were, however, non-identical. The elder, Esau, was ruddy and hairy while the younger, Jacob, was smooth-skinned.

The distinction between the two brothers was not restricted to physical appearance alone. They also differed greatly in character and behaviour.

Jacob was studious and devout while Esau became a prolific huntsman who was not too concerned with the finer points of religion and ethics.

However, he always pretended to be religious in the presence of his partially-sighted father. His mother, Rebecca, was not so easily fooled and saw through her son’s facade.

One day, Esau came home from a particularly hard day’s hunting exhausted.

Jacob sensed an opportunity to wrest “the birthright”, which would entitle the owner to pre-eminence over the other (it would have proved fatal — both physically and spiritually — to Jacob if it had remained with Esau).

So he offered to “buy” the birthright for a pot of lentils. Not caring a jot for birthright, which he felt would only bring him unwanted responsibilities, Esau readily agreed to the “deal”— a sort of “Brexit”, an exit from the birthright!

Some time later, Isaac makes plans to bestow blessings upon the supposed “first-born” Esau.

However, realising that Jacob was the true “owner” of the actual birthright as well as being a worthier recipient of Isaac’s blessings, Rebecca and Jacob contrive to thwart Isaac’s misguided plans and ensure that the blessings are bestowed upon the “correct” — divinely ordained — beneficiary, Jacob.

As we commemorate the centenary of the Armistice in the First World War, let us also remember that tonight (Friday, Shabbat eve) is the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

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