The layers of Toldot

The Sedra Toldot can be appreciated in several ways.

 

Firstly as a drama composed of several scenes in which only two people appear; Isaac and Esau , Rebecca and Jacob , then Jacob and Isaac, etc.  A very effective dramatic technique . The reader can make judgements and is not burdened with moralisations.

 

Secondly, it can be seen as a lesson in politics and diplomacy. Isaac makes agreements with the Philistines only to see them broken.  However he persists and eventually establishes a no-war no- peace situation, bearing some resemblance to what Israel currently finds itself in.

 

Thirdly, as a dysfunctional  family.  A husband of a studious disposition, who has been through the trauma of the Akeda and who is also a successful diplomat and farmer but easily influenced. Rebecca, who came from a tough school in the company of her brother Laban, and was not above intrigue to achieve what she knew was the correct outcome in terms of Isaac’s blessing.

 

Finally, a contrast between Esau who lives for the present; and Jacob, who lived in the past by virtue of his years of study in the tents of Shem, in the present as shown by his desire to obtain the spiritual blessing,  and also in the future because of Hashem’s promise to Abraham.

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