From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur” p.516
FOR OUR COUNTRY
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/toldot
Tol’dot [תּוֹלְדֹת – The Generations (of Isaac)] – Genesis 25:19-28:9
This is the line of Isaac son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. – Genesis 25:19
- Rebekah has twins, Esau and Jacob. (25:19-26)
- Esau gives Jacob his birthright in exchange for some stew. (25:27-34)
- King Abimelech is led to think that Rebekah is Isaac’s sister and later finds out that she is really his wife. (26:1-16)
- Isaac plans to bless Esau, his firstborn. Rebekah and Jacob deceive Isaac so that Jacob receives the blessing. (27:1-29)
- Esau threatens to kill Jacob, who then flees to Haran. (27:30-45)
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledot
Malachi 1 opens with God noting “I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau,” before promising retribution on Esau’s descendants, the people of Edom.
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledot
Toledot – Gen. 26:23-27:27 – triennial part
(תּוֹלְדֹת — Hebrew for “generations” or “descendants”)
[The name of Toledo, Spain is believed to be related to the name for this week’s Torah Portion.] The [complete] parashah tells of the conflict between Jacob and Esau, Isaac‘s passing off his wife Rebekah as his sister, and Isaac’s blessing of his sons.
[The triennial part of Toledot – Gen. 26:23-27:27 tells of Isaac going to Beersheba, God appearing to him promising blessing and increased offspring, and his building an altar invoking God by name. Isaac’s servants dig a well. Abimelech and his men enter into a treaty with Isaac after driving him away, saying they now recognize that God is with him. They depart in peace, Isaac’s servants report finding water and he names the well Shibah,] so that place became known as Beersheba. The reading then tells of Esau at 40 years old marrying Judith and Basemath, two Hittite women, causing bitterness for Isaac and Rebekah.
When Isaac becomes old and his sight weak, he calls Esau and asks him to hunt some game and prepare a dish, so that Isaac might give him his innermost blessing before he dies. Rebekah had been listening, and when Esau is gone, she instructs Jacob to fetch her two choice kids so that she might prepare a dish that Jacob could take to Isaac and receive his blessing. Jacob complains to Rebekah that since Esau is hairy, Isaac might touch him, discover him to be a trickster, and curse him. But Rebekah calls the curse upon herself, insisting that Jacob do as she says. So, Jacob gets the kids, and Rebekah prepares a dish, has Jacob put on Esau’s best clothes, and covers Jacob’s hands and neck with the kid’s skins. When Jacob goes to Isaac, he asks which of his sons has arrived, and Jacob says that he is Esau and asks for Isaac’s blessing. Isaac asks him how he succeeded so quickly, and he answers that God granted him good fortune. Isaac asks Jacob to come closer that Isaac might feel him to determine whether he is really Esau. Isaac feels him and wonders that the voice is Jacob’s, but the hands are Esau’s. Isaac questions if it is really Esau, and when Jacob assures him, Isaac asks for the game and Jacob serves him the kids and wine. Isaac bids his son to come close and kiss him, and Isaac smells his clothes, remarking that he smells like the fields.]
Genesis chapter 27
[Professor Ephraim Speiser, formerly of the University of Pennsylvania,] read the details of Jacob’s behavior in Genesis 27:1–40 to show that, although the outcome favored Jacob, the Jahwist’s personal sympathies lay with Isaac and Esau, the victims of the ruse. Speiser read the unintended blessing of Jacob by Isaac in Genesis 27 to teach that no one may grasp God’s complete design, which remains reasonable and just no matter who the chosen agent may be at any given point.
The 20th-century Reform rabbi and author Gunther Plaut argued that Isaac was not really deceived. Reading the story with close attention to the personality of Isaac, Plaut concluded that throughout the episode, Isaac was subconsciously aware of Jacob’s identity, but, as he was unable to admit this knowledge, he pretended to be deceived. Plaut thus saw a plot within a plot, as Rebekah and Jacob laid elaborate plans for deceiving Isaac, while unknown to them Isaac looked for a way to deceive himself, in order to carry out God’s design to bless his less-loved son. Plaut argued that Isaac was old but not senile. In his heart, Isaac had long known that Esau could not carry on the burden of Abraham and that, instead, he had to choose his quiet and complicated younger son Jacob. In Plaut’s reading, weak and indecisive man and father that Isaac was, he did not have the courage to face Esau with the truth. His own blindness and Rebekah’s ruse came literally as a godsend. Plaut noted that Isaac did not reprimand Jacob. Plaut concluded that no one, not even Esau, was deceived, for even Esau knew that Jacob was the chosen one.
The Darshan (דַּרְשָׁן or דַּרְשָׁנִית – Hebrew for “deliverer of the d’rash”) during the Temple Sinai Tuesday Morning Minyan this week spoke about the word “חָרַד” (charad) which is translated as “tremble”. In this week’s Torah Portion, it appears twice in different forms in one sentence, Gen. 27:33. A form of the word appears again later in Gen. 42:28 after the first meeting between Joseph and his brothers when they find their money in the sacks as they are on their way back from Egypt to their father, Jacob. Forms of the word appear in Isaiah 66:2 and 66:5, as well.
Gen. 27:33, per the Darshan, can be translated as “Isaac trembled a great tremble….” After Esau returned with venison, prepared a dish for Isaac, and asked for his blessing, Isaac realized what he had done and was exceedingly frightened. This last Yom Kippur, after chanting the first Torah blessing under pitch before over 400 online attendees, I felt the kind of terror that Isaac in this Parsha may have experienced. My whole body trembled uncontrollably for many minutes. I felt humiliated and ashamed, and imagine Isaac did too in this story.
A variant of the word is used in modern times as a name for a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews known as “Haredim”, literally “tremblers (before God)”. As I understand it, the persons praying are to be in such awe and fear that they tremble as they approach the Eternal One. As a young Cantorial Soloist in the Bay Area, especially during the High Holy Days, I often felt what the Haredim were trying to achieve. There I stood shaking before God and the congregation pleading on our behalf. This is how I know when I or other prayer leaders are just going through the motions or something in between.
When and where have you felt such awe and fear in your life? The context or situation matters less than reconnecting with that feeling that makes you quake to the very core of your being. It reminds you of who and what you are, which I see as related to “being made in God’s image”, which is “Tov Me’od” (very good).
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those at home alone; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, natural disasters, war and violence. We remember, too, those victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, November 20, 2020. There are almost six weeks left in 2020.
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Toledot (triennial part) Gen 26:23-27:27
Time: Nov 20, 2020 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Nov 20, 2020 07:30 PM Arizona
To join the Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]:
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Being a part of, contributing to and connecting with Temple Kol Hamidbar helps us fulfill our three-fold purpose as a Beit Tefillah (House of Prayer), a Beit Midrash (House of Study) and a Beit Knesset (House of Community) – even virtually.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!