“Toldot,” meaning generations, immediately begins with the stories about Jacob and Esau. They are destined to be eternal rivals. This week’s sedrah is really about Jacob, and the next twenty five chapters will focus on Jacob’s life and his family.
In many ways, Jacob is the most important of the patriarchs. It is through him that the covenant with grandfather Abraham will be transmitted to future generations. His progeny will become the twelve tribes of Israel. It is through his decision to move temporarily to Egypt during a severe famine, that accounts for Israel’s later enslavement. This move also provides the opportunity for the Almighty to ultimately reveal Himself as the author of freedom.
Abraham is an ideal hero. Isaac is a shadowy hero. Things happen to him, but we don’t know much about his essential actions. He rarely acts. He was bound on an altar, and last week, a bride was chosen for him. In our Shabbat portion, Isaac is tricked by wife Rebecca and his younger son, Jacob. But Jacob is a real activist. Today he is depicted as a cunning and manipulative actor. He will gain his father’s crucial parental blessing, with all the goodies that the blessing entails…So we shall watch this saga unfold over the next five Sabbaths.