Parashat Toldot

Rebekah gives birth to twins, Esau and Jacob, who struggle with each other, engage in bargaining and deception to obtain the birthright and Isaac's blessing.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

Rebekah and Isaac want a child. They pray to God. Rebekah soon feels violent movement within her womb. She asks God why she feels fighting within her, and God answers, “Two nations are in your womb and two states. They will be divided from one another, starting from within you. One state shall become mightier than the other and the mighty one shall serve the lesser.”

When Rebekah gives birth, she has two boys. The first baby comes out red-cheeked and hairy and they name him Esau. The second is a smooth-skinned baby whom they name Jacob.

When the lads grow up, Esau who understands hunting and farming. Jacob is a single-minded man, living in tents. Isaac favors Esau while Rebekah favors Jacob. One day Esau comes from the field feeling hungry and faint and sees Jacob with a pot of stew. “Jacob,” Esau asks, “May I have a bit of your stew please. I am faint with hunger.”

“Sure, if you sell me your birthright,” answers Jacob.

Esau stares at his brother. “If I am going to die from hunger, what good is my birthright to me?” Esau then sells his birthright to Jacob.

Esau eats and drinks and leaves. Thus did Esau despise his birthright.

After many years Isaac becomes old and blind. He calls to Esau, “My son. Go hunt some venison for me and prepare the tasty dish that I love. Bring it to me and I will eat it and then my soul will bless you before I die.”

Rebekah overhears this conversation between Esau and Isaac and tells Jacob what she had heard. “Now, son,” Rebekah says to Jacob, “go to the flock and fetch me two good young goats so that I may make a tasty dish for your father. Then you will bring it to your father so that he shall eat and bless you before his death.”

“But Mother,” Jacob replies. “Esau, my brother is a hairy man and I am smooth. Perhaps my father will feel me and I will seem in his eyes an impostor and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.”

“Upon me be your curse, my son;” says Rebekah. “Now obey me and go get the goats so I can make a stew.”

Jacob does as his mother told him to do. His mother then prepares the dish that his father loves. Before Jacob delivers the meal to his father, his mother puts hairy goat skins upon his hands and neck and dresses him in the Esau’s clothing.

Jacob then goes to see his father. “Father,” he says.

“Here I am!” Isaac replies. “Who are you, my son?”

“It is I, Esau, your first-born,” says Jacob. “I have done as you told me, please come eat of my venison so that your soul may bless me.”

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.