May We Be Known by the Work of Our Hands

May We Be Known by the Work of Our Hands

Nov 5, 2021 By Ariella Rosen | Commentary | Toledot

How does deception begin? In the telling of Jacob’s acquisition of nearly all of the first-born advantages granted his brother Esau, the moment is perhaps not what it seems.

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Esau’s Primal Scream

Esau’s Primal Scream

Nov 20, 2020 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Toledot

Sometimes words fail us. When they do, depending on the cause and our own propensities, we resort to song, dance, or other forms of wordless expression. And sometimes we scream. Primal screams that communicate an agony beyond verbal expression resound throughout the Torah.

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Stumping Rashi: Humility and Modern Discourse

Stumping Rashi: Humility and Modern Discourse

Nov 30, 2019 By Marc Gary | Commentary | Toledot

One of the joys of working at The Jewish Theological Seminary is the ability to take courses from arguably the greatest Jewish studies faculty in the world. Last year, I audited a course on biblical grammar in the Book of Genesis taught by one of this generation’s greatest Bible scholars. While I did my best to keep up with the younger and better-educated members of the class—mostly rabbinical and graduate students—I was particularly impressed by the level of class discussion. During one class, a student offered an interpretation of the text which he argued was consistent with the grammar but different from the one offered by the professor. The professor paused for a moment and then smiled: “I never thought of that.”

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Two Nations Struggling in the Womb

Two Nations Struggling in the Womb

Nov 9, 2018 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Toledot

The map of the United States is divided almost equally between red and blue as I write this column on the morning after the 2018 midterm elections. The Republicans have increased their majority in the Senate, and lost their majority in the House. Many races were too close to call far into the evening, and were decided in the end by the narrowest of margins—even as the two major parties and their supporters apparently stand farther apart from one another than at any time in recent memory. The results confirm the widespread view that Americans have rarely been less united.

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A Family of Covenant

A Family of Covenant

Nov 17, 2017 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Toledot

The stories of Genesis are presented as family portraits, but simultaneously they describe the origins of a religious civilization. How did the people of Israel acquire and maintain its distinctive religious mission? Genesis offers not only a window into Israel’s past, but a blueprint for its future. Implicit is an invitation to contribute to this unfolding narrative, attaching the threads of our lives to the tapestry woven by our ancestors. 

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A Sibling Rivalry for the Generations

A Sibling Rivalry for the Generations

Dec 2, 2016 By Brian Smollett | Commentary | Toledot

Do the Jewish people exist because of a bowl of lentil soup? Toledot presents the story of Jacob and Esau, a sibling rivalry with cosmic implications. The twin brothers who would come to father their own nations struggled even within the womb. Different as they were, they both prized the birthright that the already elderly Isaac would bestow upon his first born.

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Two Nations in Your Belly

Two Nations in Your Belly

Dec 2, 2016 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Toledot

One of the most poignant and profound verses of the Bible appears early in this week’s Torah reading, Toledot. Our matriarch Rebecca, beset with a difficult pregnancy, asks God, “Why me?” (Gen. 25:22). And God replies to her with one of the most fateful verses of the Bible: “There are two nations in your belly” (Gen. 25:23). From that moment on, the die is cast: we are locked in a struggle with Esau / Edom. This week’s haftarah from the prophet Malachi teaches us the stakes: “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? asks the Lord. Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2-3).

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Biblical PTSD

Biblical PTSD

Nov 1, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Toledot

Many centuries before the advent of modern medicine in general and care for mental health in particular, our Sages developed the symbolic language of angels’ tears to explain the hidden wounds impressed upon Isaac’s psyche in the aftermath of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac.

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The Flaws of Our Ancestors

The Flaws of Our Ancestors

Nov 13, 1993 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Toledot

As Jews, we revere our ancestors not because they were perfect, but because they are ours. Neither Abraham nor Isaac nor Jacob are portrayed by the Torah as men without flaws, or saints who could do no wrong. They exhibit the warts and weaknesses we recognize in ourselves. What sets them apart, rather, is the nobility and courage of their convictions as evinced in moments of luminous insight and supreme self-denial.

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Mourning a Sister

Mourning a Sister

Nov 29, 1997 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Toledot

The Shiva is over. I have reentered the world emotionally drained and self-absorbed. My sister, my only sibling, was also my friend. We shared so much of our adult lives. My wife and I were married in her home. Her first husband, an obstetrician for whom the practice of medicine was his calling, delivered our three children. Their spacious and relaxed home in Vineland, New Jersey provided us a refuge full of love, companionship and good conversation. We traveled together, mourned together and always celebrated the Passover sedarim together.

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