Parshas Toldos

November 16, 2012
2 Kislev, 5773

Candle-lighting Time: 4:26 PM

This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of the birth of twin girls to Yehoshua and Elisheva Hoffman last week. Mazel Tov to them and happy grandparents Efraim and Aliza Bulow!


  • Support Israel at our Israel Art Show, Dec. 5-9. 1500 works of original art from over 100 different Israeli artists for sale in time for Chanukah. Check our website for details.
  • Chanukah this year is observed from Saturday night, Dec. 8th – Saturday night, Dec. 15th. Time to dust off the menorah…

Oy the Twins

by Rabbi Raphael Leban

Twins have always been a source of fascination to me. They happen to run in my wife’s family, and the midwife who helped us deliver our first child said there may actually have been a potential twin with him at some point. In retrospect I think two might have been a bit much. Especially if they were anything like Rivka’s twins, born in this week’s parsha.

In Parshas Toldos, which means ‘descendants,’  Rivka and Isaac give birth to two sons. Even before they were born Rivka knew there was going to be trouble, and she wasn’t wrong.

Their first child was Eisav (Esau in English), a source of constant anguish. If he wasn’t out marrying women from the wrong side of the tracks, he was busy plotting to kill his brother. Oy.

Their second child, however, was Yaakov (Jacob in English). He was a good student, listened to his parents, and he could even cook. From Yaakov, they had nachas.

The very names of the two children reveal their divergent dispositions.

The name Eisav comes from the past tense of the word la’asot, meaning done. Because he was born with a full head of red hair, he appeared very ‘done’, i.e. he spent a little too much time in the oven. The spiritual implication, is that of being done, finished, finito. Eisav’s rotten character was a direct result of his sense of being all done. Nothing left to achieve, no where else to grow. I am who I am.

The name Yaakov, on the other hand, comes from the word eikev, meaning heel or footstep. Yaakov was so called because he was born clutching his brother’s heel. Spiritually, the name can be understood to mean taking steps, moving forward, making progress. A life that is in progress, with ambition and an ideology of growth, such a life is a source of joy to a parent.

We, thank G-d, are all descendants of Yaakov. We are the Bnei Yisroel (children of Israel, Yaakov’s other name) and our spiritual roots are clear. We must be true to our namesake, and lead lives of movement, progress and growth.


by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

Rivka advised her son Yaakov to deceive his father Yitzchak in order to gain his blessing. She took the hides from two goats and clothed Yaakov in them so that he would feel like he was Eisav. When Yaakov entered and told Yitzchak that he had come, Yitzchak discerned that the voice resembled that of Yaakov, however his hands were rough like those of Eisav. Nonetheless, Yitzchak decided to bless him because he assumed that his sense of feel was more reliable than his sense of hearing which indicated that the person in front of him was Yaakov.

Is it really necessary for the Torah to point this out? Whatever the reason was, Yitzchak assumed that Eisav was the person in front of him, and thus granted him the blessing.

Malbim comments that when a righteous person eats, he elevates the food itself to the hallowed level of a sacrifice, as if it were being offered upon the altar in the Beis Hamikdash. Therefore, when Yitzchak ate the meal that Yaakov prepared for him, it had the status of an offering. Everything in the physical world contains a spiritual essence which is manifest when it is utilized appropriately, in other words, to advance one’s service of Hashem. Subsequently, when that thing is used in accordance with its ultimate purpose, the very presence of Hashem descends upon its user, accompanied by blessings of success.

The meat of the two goats that Rivka used to provide camouflage for Yaakov served as the meal that Yaakov prepared for his father. Based on the Malbim’s explanation, the verse is now clear. Those goats were indeed offered as sacrifices upon Yitzchak’s ‘altar’ since his very consumption paralleled that of the altar used for offerings in the Beis Hamikdash. Additionally, those two goats were designated to be used as the special Pesach offering and the Yom Tov sacrifice to provide the Yom Tov meal. And the hides from those very goats served to convince Yitzchak that he was blessing Eisav although it was really Yaakov.

Malbim continues that the theme of the special sacrifice brought on Pesach illustrates that the Jewish nation can manipulate the world around them. We are not controlled by the physical realm that we perceive; rather we dominate our material surroundings. This was the cause for Yaakov’s blessing. His external trappings, the rough hewn hides that disguised his appearance, could not conceal his true inner essence and therefore he merited the blessings of his father that were actually meant for him.

This encounter, which challenged Yaakov to pursue his ambitions to fulfill the blessings of his father and overcome the counterforce of his evil brother Eisav, typify the constant mêlée between the Jewish nation and the nations of the world; and the ongoing struggle that we endure during our exile from the Beis Hamikdash and the Land of Israel.

However, we must realize that no matter how difficult the battle may seem and how distant success may appear, in the end we will emerge victorious. But that conquest is only possible when we employ the inner power that we possess, to utilize our material holdings and resources for the sake of Torah and its ultimate triumph.

Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from

Rabbi Menashe Klein was asked if one is permitted to be stringent in areas of Jewish law in which one’s ancestors had a custom to be lenient. Rabbi Klein strongly opposes deviating from the customs of one’s forefathers even to be stringent, and adduces a proof from our parshah. When Isaac dug wells after the Philistines had filled them in, he called them “the names that his father had called them” (Genesis 26:18). Rabeinu Bachya quotes Rabbi Hai Gaon who says that Isaac did this in order to honor his father, Abraham. He then states “that one should be inspired by this not to change from the ways of his forefathers, even in a minor matter, and how much more so in matters of behavior and ethics” (Responsa Mishneh Halachot 12:385).

Joke of the Week

A man was telling a joke at a party, “Two old Jews were on their way…” when suddenly he was interrupted by a sensitive guest.

“Why do so many jokes begin with Jews?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” apologized the story teller, “I’ll start again. Two old Chinese men were on their way to the Synagogue to see the Rabbi…”


The confrontation between Yaakov and Eisav began even while they were still in the womb. When they born, Yaakov was grasping Eisav’s heel. In order to prevent Eisav from triumphing and trampling us, we must protect ourselves by seizing Eisav and fighting back with the resources available to us.