As the American Jewish community is dealing with assimilation as a threat to Jewish continuity, Parashat Toldot brings the story of the first assimilated Hebrew. It is a story that will repeat itself for 4,000 years.
Abraham Avinu, our father, the one who initiated the Hebrew (Israelite, Jewish) family-nation begot Isaac, and Isaac had twins: Esau and Jacob. Twins by birth, but very different in character. Esau was a hunter, selfish, very instinctual and physical, while Jacob is described as calm and spiritual.
Interestingly, the Torah tell us about the parental preferences: Isaac loved Esau, and Rivkah loved Jacob. The question is: Why did he love the son who seems not to live by his parent’s values? And on top of that, Esau married out of the family with two Hittite women, bringing bitterness to the soul of his parents.
One commentary suggests that Isaac, the son of immigrants, loved his integrated and socially-successful son, who became what Isaac was not.
That may be so, but in my opinion the favoritism stopped when Rivkah raised the issue of “Jewish continuity” through the passing on of the blessing to Jacob rather than Esau. It is my opinion that the two parents worked together to put on the scheme so that Jacob would get the blessing.
Does the story sound familiar? Immigrants doing the impossible so the next generation can integrate into the new country? And it´s not new. What would have happened to the prosperous Israelites in Egypt had a new Pharaoh not enslaved them?
The story of Abraham’s grandchild was just a prelude and warning for the generations to come. We see it in the French revolution, pre-Nazi Germany, et cetera.
Toldot means “generations,” and the story of Esau is an invitation to reflect about what kind of measures we take to ensure the Jewish continuity of our children and our people, the real source of “nachas,” the Jewish satisfaction.
May we all have nachas of our Toldot
Rabbi Alberto (Baruch) Zeilicovich