Toledot, Toldot, or Tol'doth (תּוֹלְדֹת — Hebrew for “line” or “story,” the second word and the first distinctive word in the parshah) is the sixth weekly Torah portion (parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis 25:19–28:9. Jews in the Diaspora read it the sixth Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in November or early December.
Esau and Jacob
Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah, and when she proved barren, Isaac pleaded with God on her behalf, and God allowed Rebekah to conceive. ( ) As twins struggled in her womb, she inquired of God, who answered her that two separate nations were in her womb, one mightier than the other, and the older would serve the younger. ( ) When Rebekah gave birth, the first twin emerged red and hairy, so they named him Esau, and his brother emerged holding Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob. ( ) Isaac was 60 years old when they were born. ( )
Esau became a skillful hunter and outdoorsman, but Jacob remained a mild man and camp-bound. ( ) Isaac favored Esau for his game, but Rebekah favored Jacob. ( ) Once when Jacob was cooking, Esau returned to the camp famished and demanded some of Jacob’s red stew. ( ) Jacob demanded that Esau first sell him his birthright, and Esau did so with an oath, spurning his birthright. ( )
Wife as sister
Another famine struck the land, and Isaac went to the house of the Philistine King Abimelech in Gerar. ( ) God told Isaac not to go down to Egypt, but to stay in the land that God would show him, for God would remain with him, bless him, and assign the land to him and his numerous heirs, as God had sworn to Abraham, who had obeyed God and kept God’s commandments. ( )
When the men of Gerar asked Isaac about his beautiful wife, he said that she was his sister out of fear that the men might kill him on account of her. ( ) But looking out of the window, Abimelech saw Isaac fondling Rebekah, and Abimelech summoned Isaac to complain that Isaac had called her his sister. ( ) Isaac explained that he had done so to save his life. ( ) Abimelech complained that one of the people might have lain with her, and Isaac would have brought guilt upon the Philistines, and Abimelech charged the people not to molest Isaac or Rebekah, on pain of death. ( )
God blessed Isaac, who reaped bountiful harvests and grew very wealthy, to the envy of the Philistines. (Rehoboth. ( )) The Philistines stopped up all the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug, and Abimelech sent Isaac away, for his household had become too big. ( ) So Isaac left to settle in the wadi of Gerar, where he dug anew the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug and called them by the same names that his father had. ( ) But when Isaac's servants dug two new wells, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen and claimed them for their own, so Isaac named those wells Esek and Sitnah. ( ) Isaac moved on and dug a third well, and they did not quarrel over it, so he named it
Isaac went to Beersheba, and that night God appeared to Isaac, telling Isaac not to fear, for God was with him, and would bless him and increase his offspring for Abraham’s sake. ( ) So Isaac built an altar and invoked the Lord by name. ( ) And Isaac pitched his tent there and his servants began digging a well. ( )
Then Abimelech, Ahuzzath his councilor, and Phicol his general came to Isaac, and Isaac asked them why they had come, since they had driven Isaac away. ( ) They answered that they now recognized that God had been with Isaac, and sought a treaty that neither would harm the other. ( ) Isaac threw a feast for the Philistines, and the next morning, they exchanged oaths and the Philistines departed from him in peace. ( ) Later in the day, Isaac's servants told him that they had found water, and Isaac named the well Shibah, so that place became known as Beersheba. ( )
When Isaac was old and his sight had dimmed, he called Esau and asked him to hunt some game and prepare a dish, so that Isaac might give him his innermost blessing before he died. () Rebekah had been listening, and when Esau departed, she instructed 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 complained to Rebekah that since Esau was hairy, Isaac might touch him, discover him to be a trickster, and curse him. ( ) But Rebekah called the curse upon herself, insisting that Jacob do as she directed. ( ) So Jacob got the kids, and Rebekah prepared a dish, had Jacob put on Esau’s best clothes, and covered Jacob’s hands and neck with the kid’s skins. ( )
When Jacob went to Isaac, he asked which of his sons had arrived, and Jacob said that he was Esau and asked for Isaac’s blessing. () Isaac asked him how he had succeeded so quickly, and he said that God had granted him good fortune. ( ) Isaac asked Jacob to come closer that Isaac might feel him to determine whether he was really Esau. ( ) Isaac felt him and wondered that the voice was Jacob’s, but the hands were Esau’s. ( ) Isaac questioned if it was really Esau, and when Jacob assured him, Isaac asked for the game and Jacob served him the kids and wine. ( ) Isaac bade his son to come close and kiss him, and Isaac smelled his clothes, remarking that he smelled like the fields. ( ) Isaac blessed Jacob, asking God to give him abundance, make peoples serve him, make him master over his brothers, curse those who cursed him, and bless those who blessed him. ( )
Just as Jacob left, Esau returned from the hunt, prepared a dish for Isaac, and asked Isaac for his blessing. () Isaac asked who he was, and Esau said that it was he. ( ) Isaac trembled and asked who it was then who had served him, received his blessing, and now must remain blessed. ( ) Esau burst into sobbing, and asked Isaac to bless him too, but Isaac answered that Jacob had taken Esau’s blessing with guile. ( ) Esau asked whether Jacob had been so named that he might supplant Esau twice, first taking his birthright and now his blessing. ( ) Esau asked Isaac whether he had not reserved a blessing for Esau, but Isaac answered that he had made Jacob master over him and sustained him with grain and wine, and asked what, then, he could still do for Esau. ( ) Esau wept and pressed Isaac to bless him, too, so Isaac blessed him to enjoy the fat of the earth and the dew of heaven, to live by his sword and to serve his brother, but also to break his yoke. ( )
Esau harbored a grudge against Jacob, and told himself that he would kill Jacob upon Isaac’s death. (Haran and her brother Laban and remain there until Esau’s fury subsided and Rebekah fetched him from there, so that Rebekah would not lose both sons in one day. ( ) Rebekah told Isaac her disgust with the idea that Jacob might marry a Hittite woman, so Isaac sent for Jacob, blessed him, and instructed him not to take a Canaanite wife, but to go to Padan-aram and the house of Bethuel to take a wife from among Laban’s daughters. ( ) And Isaac blessed Jacob with fertility and the blessing of Abraham, that he might possess the land that God had assigned to Abraham. ( )) When Esau’s words reached Rebekah, she told Jacob to flee to
In classical rabbinic interpretation
Genesis chapter 25
Reading the words, “and she went to inquire of the Lord,” in midrash wondered how Rebekah asked God about her pregnancy, and whether there were synagogues and houses of study in those days. The midrash concluded that Rebekah went to the school of Shem and Eber to inquire. The midrash deduced that this teaches that to visit a Sage is like visiting the Divine Presence. (Genesis Rabbah 63:6.)a
Rabbi Haninah taught that Esau paid great attention to his parent (horo), his father, whom he supplied with meals, as Deuteronomy 2:3, “You have circled this mountain (הָר, har) long enough (רַב, rav).” (Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:17.)reports, “Isaac loved Esau, because he ate of his venison.” Rabbi Samuel the son of Rabbi Gedaliah concluded that God decided to reward Esau for this. When Jacob offered Esau gifts, Esau answered Jacob in “I have enough (רָב, rav); do not trouble yourself.” So God declared that with the same expression that Esau thus paid respect to Jacob, God would command Jacob’s descendants not to trouble Esau’s descendants, and thus God told the Israelites in
A Tanna taught in a Baraita that the day recounted in on which Esau spurned his birthright was also the day on which Abraham died, and Jacob was cooking lentils to comfort Isaac. In the Land of Israel they taught in the name of Rabbah bar Mari that it was appropriate to cook lentils because just as the lentil has no mouth (no groove like other legumes), so the mourner has no mouth to talk but sits silently. Others explained that just as the lentil is round, so mourning comes round to all people. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 16b.)
Rabbi Johanan taught that Esau committed five sins on the day recounted in Rabbi Johanan deduced from the similar use of the words “the field” in and in connection with the betrothed maiden in that Esau dishonored a betrothed maiden. Rabbi Johanan deduced from the similar use of the word “faint” in and in connection with murderers in Jeremiah 4:31 that Esau committed a murder. Rabbi Johanan deduced from the similar use of the word “this” in and in the words “This is my God” in Exodus 15:2 that Esau denied belief in God. Rabbi Johanan deduced from Esau’s words, “Behold, I am on the way to die,” in that Esau denied the resurrection of the dead. And for Esau’s fifth sin, Rabbi Johanan cited the report of that “Esau despised his birthright.” (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 16b.)
Genesis chapter 26
The Tosefta deduced from the contrast between the plenty indicated inand the famine indicated in that God gave the people food and drink and a glimpse of the world to come while the righteous Abraham was alive, so that the people might understand what they had lost when he was gone. (Tosefta Sotah 10:5.) The Tosefta reported that when Abraham was alive, the wells gushed forth water, but the Philistines filled the wells with earth (as reported in ), for after Abraham died the wells no longer gushed forth water, and the Philistines filled them so that they would not pose a hazard to travelers. But when Isaac came along, the wells gushed water again (as indicated in ) and there was plenty again (as indicated in ) (Tosefta Sotah 10:6.)
Interpreting God’s command to Isaac innot to go to Egypt, Rabbi Hoshaya taught that God told Isaac that he was (by virtue of his near sacrifice in ) a burnt-offering without blemish, and as a burnt offering became unfit if it was taken outside of the Temple grounds, so would Isaac become unfit if he went outside of the Promised Land. (Genesis Rabbah 64:3.)
Rabbi Dosetai ben Yannai said in the name of Rabbi Meir that when God told Isaac that God would bless him for Abraham’s sake ( ), Isaac interpreted that one earns a blessing only through one’s actions, and he arose and sowed, as reported in (Tosefta Berakhot 6:8.)
Genesis chapter 27
Rabbi Eleazar taught that Isaac’s blindness, reported in was caused by his looking at the wicked Esau. But Rabbi Isaac taught that Abimelech’s curse of Sarah caused her son Isaac’s blindness. Rabbi Isaac read the words, “it is for you a covering (kesut) of the eyes,” in not as kesut, “covering,” but as kesiyat, “blinding.” Rabbi Isaac concluded that one should not consider a small matter the curse of even an ordinary person. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 28a; see also Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 93a.) Alternatively, a midrash interpreted the words “his eyes were dim from seeing” in to teach that Isaac’s eyesight dimmed as a result of his near sacrifice in for when Abraham bound Isaac, the ministering angels wept, as Isaiah 33:7 says, “Behold, their valiant ones cry without, the angels of peace weep bitterly,” and tears dropped from the angels’ eyes into Isaac’s, leaving their mark and causing Isaac’s eyes to dim when he became old. (Genesis Rabbah 65:10.)
Rabbi Eleazar taught that deceptive speech is like idolatry. Rabbi Eleazar deduced the similarity from the common use of the word “deceiver” to describe Jacob’s deception his father in Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 92a.)where Jacob says, “I shall seem to him as a deceiver,” and to describe idols in where idols are described as “the work of deceivers.” (
But the Gemara cited Jacob as the exemplar of one who, in the words of Psalm 15:3, “has no slander on his tongue,” as Jacob’s protest to Rebekah in “I shall seem to him as a deceiver,” demonstrated that Jacob did not take readily to deception. (Babylonian Talmud Makkot 24a.)
Rabbi Johanan taught that when Jacob explained his rapid success in obtaining the meat by saying inthat it was “because the Lord your God sent me good speed,” he was like a raven bringing fire to his nest, courting disaster. For when Jacob said “the Lord your God sent me good speed,” Isaac thought to himself that he knew that Esau did not customarily mention the name of God, and if the person before him did so, he must not have been Esau but Jacob. Consequently, Isaac told him in “Come near, I pray, that I may feel you, my son.” (Genesis Rabbah 65:19.)
Reading Isaac’s observation in Rav that Jacob smelled like an apple orchard. (Babylonian Talmud Taanit 29b.) Rabbi Judah ben Pazi interpreted Isaac’s blessing of Jacob with dew in merely to pass along to his son what God had deeded to his father Abraham for all time. (Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 55b.) And Rabbi Ishmael deduced from Isaac’s curse of those who cursed Jacob and blessing of those who blessed Jacob in that Jews need not respond to those who curse or bless them, for the Torah has already decreed the response. (Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 85b.)“See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed,” Rav Judah the son of Rav Samuel bar Shilat said in the name of
Interpreting why in Gehenna came in with him. Rabbi Aha said that the walls of the house began to seethe from the heat of Gehenna. Hence asks, “who then (אֵפוֹא, eifo)?” for Isaac asked who would be roast (leafot) in Gehenna, him or Jacob? (Genesis Rabbah 77:2.)“Isaac trembled very exceedingly,” Rabbi Johanan observed that it was surely unusual for a man who has two sons to tremble when one goes out and the other comes in. Rabbi Johanan taught that Isaac trembled because when Esau came in,
Rabbi Hama ben Hanina interpreted the question “who then?” into ask who then intervened between Isaac and God that Jacob should receive the blessings. Rabbi Hama ben Hanina taught that Isaac thereby hinted at Rebekah’s intervention. (Genesis Rabbah 77:2.)
Reading Reuben’s magnanimity. As reports, Esau voluntarily sold his birthright, but as says, “Esau hated Jacob,” and as says, “And he said, ‘Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he has supplanted me these two times.’” In Reuben’s case, Joseph took Reuben’s birthright from him against his will, as 1 Chronicles 5:1 reports, “for as much as he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph.” Nonetheless, Reuben was not jealous of Joseph, as reports, “And Reuben heard it, and delivered him out of their hand.” (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 7b.)Rabbi Eleazar contrasted Esau’s jealousy with
Genesis chapter 28
A Tanna taught in a Baraita that the exalted position of a groom atones for his sins. The Gemara cited as a proof text. The Gemara noted that reports that “Esau went to Ishmael, and took Machalat the daughter of Ishmael, as a wife,” but identifies Esau’s wife as “Basemat, Ishmael's daughter.” The Gemara explained that the name Machalat is cognate with the Hebrew word for forgiveness, mechilah, and thus deduced that teaches that Esau’s sins were forgiven upon his marriage. (Jerusalem Talmud Bikkurim 23b.)
According to Maimonides and Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are no commandments in the parshah. (Maimonides. Mishneh Torah. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 2 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 1:87. 1991. ISBN 0-87306-179-9.)
The haftarah for the parshah is:
In the liturgy
In the Blessing after Meals (Birkat Hamazon), at the close of the fourth blessing (of thanks for God’s goodness), Jews allude to God’s blessing of the Patriarchs described in , 27:33, and 33:11. (Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for the Sabbath and Festivals with an Interlinear Translation, 172. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-697-3. Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 342. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.)
The Weekly Maqam
In the Weekly Maqam, Sephardi Jews each week base the songs of the services on the content of that week's parsha. For Parsha Toledot, Sephardi Jews apply Maqam Mahour, the maqam that portrays emotional instability and anger. This maqam is similar to Maqam Rast in tone. It is appropriate, because in this parsha, Esau portrays these character traits as he loses out on the major blessings.
The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:
- 22:17 (numerous as stars). (numerous as stars);
- 17:16 (not to go to Egypt). (numerous as stars);
- Joshua 24:4.
- (not to go to Egypt).
- Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews 1:18:1–2, 4–8, 19:1; 2:1:1.
- Romans 9:6–13.
- Hebrews 11:20; 12:16–17.
- Mishnah: Mishnah Kiddushin 4:14. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 499. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
- Tosefta: Berakhot 6:8; Sotah 10:5–6; Kiddushin 5:21. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:39, 876, 947. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
- Sifre to Deuteronomy 2:3. Land of Israel, circa 250–350 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifre to Deuteronomy: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:26. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987. ISBN 1-55540-145-7.
- Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 55b, 85b; Bikkurim 23b; Sukkah 21a. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 2, 12, 22. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006–2008.
- Genesis Rabbah 63:1–67:13. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 5b, 56b, 57b; Eruvin 104b; Pesachim 5a, 42b; Yoma 28b; Sukkah 5b, 14a; Taanit 29b; Megillah 6a, 28a; Moed Katan 2a; Yevamot 64a; Ketubot 112a; Nedarim 32a; Sotah 11a, 12b, 13a, 41b; Gittin 57b; Bava Kamma 92b–93a; Bava Batra 15a, 16b, 123a; Sanhedrin 12a, 37a, 69a, 92a, 105a; Makkot 10a, 24a; Avodah Zarah 2b, 11a. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.
- Rashi. Commentary. Genesis 25–28. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 1:271–307. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-89906-026-9.
- Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:80. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 128. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
- Zohar 1:134a–46b. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
- Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, 3:36. England, 1651. Reprint edited by C. B. Macpherson, 460. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Classics, 1982. ISBN 0140431950.
- Abraham Isaac Kook. The Moral Principles. Early 20th Century. Reprinted in Abraham Isaac Kook: the Lights of Penitence, the Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems. Translated by Ben Zion Bokser, 142, 162. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press 1978. ISBN 0-8091-2159-X.
- Irving Fineman. Jacob, An Autobiograhical Novel, 11–13, 16–18. New York: Random House, 1941.
- Thomas Mann. Joseph and His Brothers. Translated by John E. Woods, 37, 91, 97–100, 103–08, 113–14, 116–17, 134, 150, 153–73, 192–94, 242, 257, 298-99, 335, 340–41, 404, 414, 417, 428–30, 449, 524, 538, 669–70, 693, 806, 809. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4001-9. Originally published as Joseph und seine Brüder. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1943.
- Roland de Vaux. “The Separate Traditions of Abraham and Jacob.” Biblical Archaeology Review. 6 (4) (July/Aug. 1980).
- Katherine Paterson. Jacob Have I Loved. New York: HarperCollins, 1980. ISBN 0-690-04078-4.
- Carl D. Evans. “The Jacob Cycle in Genesis: The Patriarch Jacob — An ‘Innocent Man’: Moral ambiguity in the biblical portrayal.” Bible Review. 2 (1) (Spring 1986).
- Marc Gellman. “The Strong Man Who Cried.” In Does God Have a Big Toe? Stories About Stories in the Bible, 57–59. New York: HarperCollins, 1989. ISBN 0-06-022432-0.
- Susan Ackerman. “Child Sacrifice: Returning God’s Gift: Barren women give birth to exceptional children.” Bible Review. 9 (3) (June 1993).
- Aaron Wildavsky. Assimilation versus Separation: Joseph the Administrator and the Politics of Religion in Biblical Israel, 5–6, 8, 13, 15, 17–29. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1993. ISBN 1-56000-081-3.
- Savina J. Teubal. “Naming is Creating: Biblical women hold the power.” Bible Review. 11 (4) (Aug. 1995).
- Marc Gellman. “Bless Me, Too!” In God’s Mailbox: More Stories About Stories in the Bible, 75–79. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1996. ISBN 0-688-13169-7.
- Elie Wiesel. “Supporting Roles: Esau.” Bible Review. 14 (2) (Apr. 1998).
- Jack Miles. “Supporting Roles: Jacob’s Wrestling Match: Was it an angel or Esau?” Bible Review. 14 (5) (Oct. 1998).
- Jonathan Goldstein. “Jacob and Esau.” In Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible! 79–114. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59448-367-7.
- Raymond Westbrook. “Good as His Word: Jacob Manipulates Justice.” Biblical Archaeology Review. 35 (3) (May/June 2009): 50–55, 64.
- Academy for Jewish Religion, California
- Academy for Jewish Religion, New York
- American Jewish University
- Bar-Ilan University
- Department for Jewish Zionist Education
- Jewish Theological Seminary
- Orthodox Union
- Parshah Parts
- Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld
- Reconstructionist Judaism
- Sephardic Institute
- Tanach Study Center
- Union for Reform Judaism
- United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism