On this weekend before Thanksgiving Day, when some of the best American family drama occurs, we read the Torah portion Toldot (Gen.25:19-28:9) which might just win the Oscar for Torah portion with the most family drama.
The twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca vie for the birthright. Isaac favors Esau, who is the older of the two, and Rebecca recognizes that Jacob, although younger, is better suited to carry on the spiritual legacy of his grandfather Abraham. Isaac loses his sight in his old age, and thinks he is dying. He asks Esau to go out and hunt and prepare him a meal, after which he will bestow his blessing upon his firstborn son. Rebecca thwarts him by sending Jacob in, wearing a goatskin to hide his hairless arms, and fools his father into giving him the blessing of the birthright. . Jacob, in Esau’s stead, receives a blessing of abundant wealth, sovereignty, the thrall of his brother, and the same blessing God gave to Abraham – that those who curse him will be cursed and those who bless him be blessed. As soon as Jacob leaves, Esau enters. Isaac tells Esau that he has already blessed Jacob, and Esau bursts into tears, saying, “Do you onlyl have one blessing? Bless me! Me, too, Father!” And Isaac finds a blessing for Esau as well.
There are lessons to be learned from both of Isaac’s sons. Jacob’s life journey will not be an easy one. He will not be able to return home until he is a grown man with a large family. He will never see his beloved mother again. As he tricked his brother, he will be tricked by his uncle Laban. Esau, too, has a lesson to teach us. We cannot always live out our parents dream, but we still deserve their blessings and prayers.
There is so much dramatic action in this Torah portion that we often forget how powerful are the prayers and blessings contained in it. At this time of Thanksgiving, may those of us who will be with family find harmony, and not acrimony. May the memory of those who are no longer with us cause us to recall the blessings they brought to our lives. And may we learn from the example of our Jacob and Esau that winning isn’t everything, and that everyone deserves a blessing.