Parashat Toledot – Erev Shabbat 20 November 2020
Week of 16-21 November 2020
Torah portion: Genesis 25: 19-28: 9 Haftarah: Malachi 1 : 1-2 : 7
Theme: The family of Isaac and Rebekah in Salvation History.
In last week’s Parashat Chayei Sarah we witnessed the faithful servant fulfilling his mission of looking for a bride for Isaac from among Abraham’s relatives living in Mesopotamia. I am interested in and inspired by the role prayer plays in this parasha. The prayer of the servant of Abraham is recorded in Gen 24: 12-14. Abraham’s servant prays for “good fortune” in finding the right wife for Jacob. “This is the first prayer for divine guidance in the Bible and it comes from the heart and mouth of a nameless individual” (Plaut: p. 165).
The parasha for this week is about the family of Isaac and Rebekah with their twin sons Esau and Jacob. It opens with these words: Eleh toledot Yitzchak, these are the generations of Isaac. It makes better sense to read Gen 25:19-20: “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac was forty years when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel, the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife.”
“Isaac was sixty at the time of the birth of Esau and Jacob (Gen 25:26). We return to the theme and the power of prayer. Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she could not have children (25:21). Perhaps this is the sorrow for Rebekah “that she was barren for the first twenty years of her married life and she never set eyes on her favorite son Jacob, after he fled from his brother Esau” (Spangler & Syswerda: p. 51). “The LORD heard Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah, his wife conceived” (Gen 25:21).
How long did the joy, pleasure and overwhelming delight of Rebekah’s pregnancy last? In Gen 25:22 we read, “As the children struggled together within her, she said, ‘If it is like this, why do I continue to live?’” So Rebekah has to go back to God again, seeking meaning behind the sorrow and struggle in life’s journey. “Rebekah teaches us – values of prayer, of looking for significance in life’s struggles, and of understanding our capacity to be God’s partners. (Goldstein: p.76). We witnessed the same pain and sorrow in the life of Hannah, mother of Samuel. Hannah turned to the LORD in prayer, a handmaiden’s prayer, and the cry of the poor.The role of Rebekah in this Parshah is quite remarkable, thought-provoking and mysterious. As it is written “Rebekah favored Jacob for no reason” (Etz Hayim: p.148). When Jacob expressed his fear to Rebekah, that perhaps Isaac would be suspicious that he was not Esau, she answered “Let the course fall on me, my son! Only do what I command you” (Gen 27:13). Rebekah is an inspiring Matriarchal figure in the History of Salvation.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. How do I experience the power of prayer in my life and spiritual journey. 2. The character and charism of Rebekah – in what way do I see her as my model?
Bibliography: Plaut,W.G The Torah A Modern Commentary (New York:1981). Rabbi Elyse Goldstein The Women’s Torah Commentary (Woodstock, VT:2000) Spangler A., & Syswerda J.E. Women of the Bible (Michigan:1999)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Aliki A Langi, Australia, Batkol Alumnus: 2005, 2018