Double Mitzvah – Toldot

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Maya B. Alma. Maya B. Alma is Jewrotica’s new Double Mitzvah columnist!

Check out last week’s column, Double Mitzvah – Chayyei Sarah.

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Rated PGThey may be among the saddest, most pathetic words in the entire Torah: “Has my father but one blessing?” It is Esau’s plea to Isaac after learning that his baby brother (sure, by a mere body length, but still…) had supplanted him and gained his blessing. Esau had already sold his birthright to his younger brother (effectively swapping birth order with him, for inheritance purposes). Having lost the material benefits of emerging first, what’s left? With Rebekah at the helm, Esau loses the spiritual benefits as well. “Bless me too, father!” So very sad.

The sadness is compounded by Isaac’s blindness, and Rebekah’s. Not the dimming of Isaac’s physical eyes, but the “blind spot” each of them had to the danger of playing favorites with parental love. We’re told early on in the story (Genesis 25:28) that “Isaac favored Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah favored Jacob.”

I didn’t grow up with any siblings, but as the parent of three kids, and the husband of someone who also has two siblings, I’ve gained some perspective on what it’s like to live with the sense that parental love is scarce resource. Whatever affinity a parent might feel for the kid who shares an interest or a talent, confusing that affinity for love or blessing is a mistake.

At our best, parents know the difference between divvying up the last piece of cake and apportioning their love. The former requires children to compromise their desires in the face of scarce resources; the latter requires no such compromise, since there is plenty of love to go around. In this, we are b’tzelem elohim, reflections of the divine. Yes, at our best, our relationships — with children, with partners, with friends — mimic God’s relationship with the world: boundless love.

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  • I always love your Double Mitzvahs, Rabbi Bach, and this one was no exception. And as a little sister, your discussion of Toldot particularly resonated. Shabbat Shalom!

    • Larry Bach

      Thanks so much, Emma, and Shabbat Shalom 🙂

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